Head Lice FAQ

Head Lice FAQ

What are Head Lice?

Head lice, also known as Pediculus humanus capitas, are highly contagious, tiny, wingless bugs that are about 2mm long, which is about the size of a sesame seed. They have six legs and use their tiny claw-like appendages to crawl around on human hair shafts. Head lice can range in color from a light bluish-gray to whitish to brown. It is almost as though they have the ability to blend into their host’s hair color.

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Are there different types of lice?

There are 3 types; head lice, body lice and pubic lice.

How do you get head lice?

Lice are transmitted from person to person, by close personal and prolonged skin contact, including sexual contact. Transmission can also occur when people sleep in the same bed, share contaminated clothing, grooming items and upholstered furniture. Head lice crawl along at a rate of about 12 inches per hour. They do not jump, hop or fly. Between 6-20 million people a year get head lice!

Does everyone in the house need to be treated for head lice?

Not necessarily. If one person in the household catches lice, that person must be treated. The other residents of the house need to be carefully checked out to see if they have lice also. If there are no signs of lice, then a person does not have to be treated.

Do I need to shave my child’s head?

No, it is not necessary to shave your child’s head. While it may make it easier to treat the head lice and get rid of the nits, it could be traumatic to your child.

Can I catch head lice from my pet?

Pets do not transmit head lice and head lice can not live on pets.

Can I catch any other diseases from lice?

Studies have not shown that lice carry or transmit any diseases.

I wash my hair all the time, why did I get lice?

Lice actually prefer clean hair. It is easier for them to grasp onto the hair shafts and travel.

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How do I know if I have head lice?

One of the most common symptoms of head lice is itching, especially on the back of the neck, the top of the head and around the ears. You will also nits, tiny white egg sacs, attached to strands of hair. These are usually about ½ inch up from the scalp. If you look very carefully, you will be able to see the lice move around on your head.

Why are over the counter treatments not working for me?

Doctor’s have used the same chemicals for years to treat lice. Health Care Professionals and Entomologists reported as early as 1985 that lice have become resistant to pediculicides.

What is a pediculicide?

These are the dangerous pesticides that are sold to treat lice. Most over the counter remedies contain an insecticide called permethrin or pyrethrin. Even more dangerous is a pediculicide that contains Lindane. These products are neurotoxic, and when used excessively and incorrectly can lead to seizures and death. These are especially dangerous to small children, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

When do I know that we are not contagious anymore?

The general rule of thumb is after you have treated and have no more nits. Lice have a life cycle of 21 days. You should continue to check to make sure that there is no re-occurrence or outbreak of lice.

When can my children go back to school?

Most schools have a no nit policy. Once your child is free of nits and live lice, they can go back to school.

How long can lice live in my home?

The lice in your environment should die off in about 48 hours if they do not feed off of a human host. The nits need to feed within 45 minutes of hatching in order for them to survive.

How can I remove the lice in my house?

You can put all sheets, pillows, bedding, stuffed animals and outerwear in to the dryer on high for twenty minutes. The heat will be effective against any lice that are living on these objects. You also need to disinfect all brushes, combs, hats and hair accessories as part of an effective head lice removal regimen.


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