Head Lice

  • There are millions of cases of head lice each year in the United States, mostly among children ages 3 to 11. Head lice do not jump, fly, or hop. They are spread primarily through direct head-to-head contact. Your school nurse can help you with additional information.

    Head lice are a common nuisance among school aged children and spread primarily through direct physical contact, such as head to head, sleepovers, or sharing combs, brushes, hats, and hair accessories of an infested person. They do not fly, jump or swim and are not found on pets.

    Head lice are small, tan/gray colored insects that are less than 1/8” long. They move quickly and may be very difficult to see. They prefer living on the scalp at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. This is where you may also find nits. Good lighting and a magnifying glass are recommended when looking for lice and nits. You can also comb through hair with a metal, fine-toothed lice comb to help detect lice. Nits (eggs) are tiny, gray/white eggs and are easier to see than the lice. They are attached to the hair shaft close to the scalp by a sticky substance that cannot be shaken off or flicked away.

    What should you do?

    • Inspect your child’s hair and scalp frequently. You can use a metal lice comb to help screen for lice.
    • Notify the school nurse if you find lice/nits on your child.

    Prevention is Critical

    Here are some simple rules to follow:

    • Teach your child never to share hairbrushes, combs, hats, helmets, coats, or other personal items.
    • At home and at school, avoid piling children's coats and hats on top of each other.
    • Encourage each family member to only use their assigned hairbrush.
    • Have your child take her own pillow to a sleepover party, and wash the pillowcase afterward.
    • If your child has long hair, keep it tied back or braided during lice outbreaks at school or child care.
    • Inspect your child’s hair and scalp frequently. You can use a metal lice comb to help screen for lice.

    Treatment:

    Head lice should be treated with FDA-approved shampoos specifically labeled for head lice. Many of these are insecticides and should be used with caution. If your child has asthma or allergies, please consult with your physician. Follow the instructions on the shampoo carefully and completely.

    • Spend time each day removing nits by using a fine-tooth metal lice comb or pinching the nit and gently sliding it all the way down the hair shaft.
    • Retreat with the lice shampoo in 7 to 10 days because the shampoo does not kill all the eggs.
    • Wash sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and clothes worn in the past 3 days in hot water. Dry in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Lice/Pesticide sprays or fumigation of the house is unnecessary.
    • Items that can’t be washed (hats, scarves, stuffed animals, pillows) can be dry cleaned, or bagged for 2 weeks.
    • Vacuum floors, carpets, mattresses, furniture, and car seats (a safe alternative to spraying).
    • Combs and brushes should be soaked for 1 hour in hot water with some anti-lice shampoo.

    More information can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/index.html and at Texas Department of State Health Services

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    American Academy of Pediatrics