Frequently Asked Questions About Head Lice

Published on September 30, 2020


Frequently Asked Questions About Head Lice

September is head lice prevention month and while most people have heard of head lice, very few know exactly how to prevent or get rid of lice if they or someone in their family were to experience them.

Amra Nasir, MD, a medical director at Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care answers common questions about head lice and how to get rid of them. “Head lice can cause a panic in your house. It’s important to follow a few easy tips to get rid of them and prevent an outbreak in the future,” says Dr. Nasir.

What are head lice?

Dr. Nasir: Head lice is an insect that can be found on someone’s hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. They live very close to the human scalp and survive by feeding on human blood. Lice are extremely small; about the size of a sesame seed and their eggs are even smaller and about the size of a knotted piece of thread. They are very common in elementary school age children.

Where does lice come from?

Dr. Nasir: Lice is transmitted when someone has direct head-to-head contact with an affected person. This can occur anywhere, but is very common at school, sports, sleepovers and other close contact activities. Occasionally lice can be spread through the sharing of belongings. Although rare, it is best to teach your child to not share hair pieces, hats, towels or brushes/combs with others.

How do I know if my child has head lice?

Dr. Nasir: Symptoms may vary, but typically, the first warning signs include itching, tickling or the feeling of something moving in their hair. Someone with lice may have trouble sleeping since lice are more active at night or they may have sores on their head from scratching.

How do I treat lice?

Dr. Nasir: There are different over the counter medications that can treat lice. Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend the best treatment if you are unsure of which to use. Be sure to follow the instructions on the medication, do not use conditioner before using the medication and do not rewash the hair for 1-2 days after the lice medicine is removed. If an over the counter treatment isn’t working, call your doctor to discuss other treatment options.

It's best to wash items that have been close to the head in warm water. Some of these items include bedding, hats, towels, hairbrushes and combs, stuffed animals or blankets that are used close to the head and cloth covers on car seats. Disinfecting your home is not required as lice cannot live more than 24 hours away from a person’s head and do not live or burrow on belongings.

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