Head Lice Information

Some Fast Facts for Parents about Head Lice

In order to assist you with accurate health information, much like we provide to you during flu season, we want to make sure that parents and guardians have accurate information about Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis).  Head Lice are a common community problem and an estimated 6 to 12 million lice cases occur each year in the United States, most commonly among children ages 3 to 11 years old. Live lice feed on human blood and live close to the human scalp. They are not dangerous and do not transmit disease, but they do spread easily.  Our campus health staff are trained to handle these situations when they present themselves.


What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live close to the human scalp. They feed on blood. The eggs, also called nits, are tiny, tear-drop shaped eggs that attach to the hair shaft. Nits often appear yellowish or white, and can look like dandruff but cannot be removed or brushed off. The nymph, or baby louse, is smaller and grow to adult size in one to two weeks. The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed appears tan to grayish-white. An itchy and inflamed scalp is a common symptom of lice. Although not common, persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.


What are Signs & Symptoms of Head Lice?

Signs and symptoms of cases of head lice include:

• Tickling feeling on the scalp or in the hair

• Itching (caused by the bites of the louse)

• Irritability and difficulty sleeping (lice are more active in the dark)

• Sores on the head (caused by scratching, which can sometimes become infected)


Who is affected by head lice?

Head lice are not related to cleanliness. In fact, head lice often infest people with good hygiene and grooming habits. Cases of head lice can occur at home, school or in the community. Head lice are mostly spread by direct head-to-head contact—for example, during play at home or school, slumber parties, sports activities, or camp. Less often, lice are spread via objects that have been in recent contact with a person with head lice, such as hats, scarves, hair ribbons, combs, brushes, stuffed animals or bedding.


What to do if a case of head lice occurs?

If you think your child has head lice, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment approach for your family. Resistance to some over-the-counter head lice treatments has been reported, but the prevalence of resistance is not known. There are new prescription treatment options available that are safe and do not require nit combing.


Source:  National Association of School Nurses

Last Modified on February 3, 2015
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