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Head Lice


 Head Lice: are tiny parasitic insects that thrive and feed off of blood from your scalp. They may also be found in the eyelashes and eyebrows. They are very common in preschool and elementary school children because of their close contact. Head Lice can be treated with both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Personal hygiene or an unclean living situation does not cause head lice but both are necessary and important steps to prevent head lice from coming back.   



Symptoms of Head Lice:

-          Intense itching of the scalp, neck, and shoulders. (However some do not experience this, especially if it is their first encounter)

-          Nits (Lice Eggs) on the hair shafts. They look like dandruff but do not brush out easily

-          Adult Lice. Adult lice can be most commonly found behind the ears and along the neckline. They are about as big as cake sprinkle.

-          Small, red bumps. These bumps are most common on the scalp, neck, and shoulders. These bumps may start to ooze or become dry and flaky.


Since Head Lice is highly contagious and easily spread, there are many ways a person can become infected. Lice can live up to 30 days on a human, but their eggs can live for more than 2 weeks. Head-to-head contact is the most common form of transmission, especially in younger children and their family members.

Most Common Ways to Get Head Lice:

-          Close personal contact with someone who has lice

-          Sharing personal items (brushes and combs, hats, headphones, etc.)

-          Touching or contact with home furnishings of someone who has lice (bedding, towels, clothing, etc.) 

Head lice, unlike body lice, does not lead to serious medical problems and they do not carry or spread disease.  

When to see the doctor: Taking at home precautions and using non-prescription shampoo should get rid of head lice. If you continue to have symptoms after at home treatments or you develop areas of tender, red skin then it is best to see a doctor. Click Here to Book an Appointment with a doctor in your area. You may need a stronger prescription shampoo or there might be an infection.


Potential Risks:

Being in contact with a person who already has head lice is the biggest risk factor. Young children, especially preschool through elementary age, are most commonly infected and have been known to transfer the lice to immediate family members.


Tests & Healthcare:

If your child has been experiencing any of the symptoms listed, or there has been an infestation at school or work, the best way to diagnose head lice is to do an examination at home. Because head lice is hard to see, you will need to look closely and use disposable gloves while using a bright light to look at the person’s head.

Head Lice Check:

-          Part wet hair all the way down to the scalp and part into small sections

-          Run a fine tooth comb over the parts and look for moving lice and nits (eggs)

-          Closely examine the top of the neck and ears for nits

If lice is found, both children and adults should be treated right away.



Over-the-counter medicines that come in forms such as shampoos, crème rinses, or lotions, that do not require a prescription are the best choices. These shampoos and lotions should contain 1% permethrin (Nix). To get rid of the lice completely follow the instructions exactly. If you find active lice after 8-12 hours after the treatment talk to your health care provider.

To make sure the lice does not come back or infest others you should take precautions within the house hold:

-          Vacuum. Vacuum the whole house (including the furniture)

-          Wash Household Items in Hot Water. Wash clothing, bedding, stuffed animals, and towels with hot, soapy water and dry them at high heat. Also, soak brushes and combs in very hot water for at least 10 minutes.

-          Seal Items to Kill Lice. Sealing clothing, bedding, and un-washable items in an airtight plastic bag for at least three to four days will kill live lice. This will also prevent newly hatched lice from thriving because they cannot survive.

Your doctor may prescribe:

If over-the-counter medicines do not seem to work, doctors may prescribe a pill or stronger shampoos or lotions to treat lice. Also, if the lice has infested the eyelashes, your doctor may want to prescribe an eye ointment.



Intense itching can break the skin and could cause a skin infection. Contact your health professional for more information.



Although it is difficult to prevent the infection of head lice, especially in young children who are in close contact at school, there are some precautions you can take:

-          Ask your child to never share brushes, combs, hats, hair accessories, bedding, towels, or clothing with someone who has had lice recently

-          If your child has lice, the best thing to do is to do all the treatments to prevent lice from coming back


Preparing for your Appointment:  

At home treatments and remedies are most likely going to get rid of head lice, but you many want to consult your health professional if:

-          Over-the-counter lice treatments are not working

-          You develop a skin infection

-          You need help determining if you or your child has head lice

Click Here to Search for Doctor in your area and Book an Appointment

What do I Ask?

You might want to have a detailed list of symptoms and information about your medical past. These questions might help your doctor determine the best solution:

-          What is the best way to treat head lice?

-          How do I rid my house of head lice?

-          Whom do I need to inform about my child’s condition?

-          Are there alternative over-the-counter treatments I can try first?

-          Should I plan a follow-up visit with you?


Online References:

Mayo Clinic /wp/diseases-conditions/head-lice/basics/definition/con-20030792

KidsHealth /wp/parent/infections/common/head_lice.html

MedlinePlus /wp/medlineplus/ency/article/000840.htm

WebMD /wp/children/tc/lice-medications