Head lice are a common community issue
- In the United States, an estimated 6 to 12 million lice infestations occur each year among children aged 3 to 11
- Children can get head lice anytime they are in close contact with others – for example, during play at home or school, slumber parties, sports activities or camp
Head lice are wingless insects
- They live close to the scalp and feed on human blood
- They are not dangerous and do not transmit disease but are easily spread
Who gets head lice?
- Almost anyone can get head lice
- Head lice are not a health hazard or sign of poor hygiene
- Children attending preschool or elementary school, and those who live with them, are the most commonly affected
How do head lice spread?
- Most often spread by direct head-to-head contact
- Head lice cannot jump or fly
- They cannot live off the head for long, so it is uncommon to spread head lice by contact with clothing or other personal items
- Dogs, cats and other pets do not play a role in spreading head lice
If head lice are suspected, families should consult with a healthcare provider as soon as possible
Key treatment considerations include:
- We do not exclude for lice. We do not have a "No nit" policy. When lice are found, students have usually had them for a few weeks.
- We do require lice be treated with a pediculicide product such as Nix, RID, etc or speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
- There is no scientific evidence that home remedies are effective
- There are prescription treatment options available – contact your healthcare professional to determine what is appropriate for you/your child
All household members and other close contacts should be checked
- Anyone with evidence of an active lice infestation should be treated
Prevention & Control
Head lice are spread most commonly by direct head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact. However, much less frequently they are spread by sharing clothing or belongings onto which lice have crawled or nits attached to shed hairs may have fallen. The risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a carpet or furniture is very small. Head lice survive less than 1–2 days if they fall off a person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature as that found close to the scalp.
The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:
- Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
- Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
- Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
- Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
- Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
- Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
- Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school, or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may spread head lice.
If you suspect your child has lice or if you have any quesitons please contact your school nurse for assistance and review the Lice Protocol below or contact your healthcare provider.