Head Lice

Head Lice

PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET

What are Head Lice?
Head lice are small insects, about the size of a sesame seed. They live on the scalp and feed by sucking blood. 

How is it spread?
Head lice is spread by head to head contact; or by sharing personal items such as hats, combs, brushes, ribbons, barrettes, coats, towels or bedding.  Lice can also spread by placing heads on furniture, rugs, or car seats recently used by someone with lice. Theater and airline seats and head phones are sometimes linked to spread of the insect, as are piling coats, hats, and scarves on top of each other.  Head lice cannot jump.

How are head lice prevented?
  • Head Lice treatments should not be used for prevention.
  • Do not share personal items—combs, brushes, hats.
  • Place hats and scarves in coat pockets when not in use.
  • Notify school staff and parents of playmates to be alert for additional case
How is it treated?
  • NIX, a synthetic permethrin 1% is currently the treatment recommended for head lice in newly diagnosed cases. Follow directions carefully.
  • Re-treat according to manufacturers recommendations, usually 7-10 days after initial treatment if newly hatched lice are found.
  • After lice treatment, the nits (eggs) should be removed with a fine tooth nit comb.  Comb daily for three weeks until no nits are found.
  • Machine wash in hot water (130 degrees F) all items used two days before lice were discovered, such as: towels, sheets, pillow cases, clothes, cloth toys, etc., or machine dry in hot dryer for at least 30 minutes.
  • Head lice and nits can be killed by placing objets at below freezing temperatures for 24 hours or by sealing articles in plastic bags for 14 days at room temperature.
  • Combs and brushes can be cleaned by soaking in hot water (above 130 degrees F) for 10 minutes or by soaking in Lysol, rubbing alcohol or lice shampoo for one hour.  Vacuum daily bare mattresses, couches, chairs, floors, pillows, carpeting, and car upholstery.
SYMPTOMS OF HEAD LICE
  • Itching, especially around the ears and back of the neck.
  • Head lice do not cause disease, but infection may develop at scratch sites.
  • Evidence of live lice or nits found within 1/4 inch of the scalp.