Head lice infestation, or pediculosis, is
an unpleasant nuisance that affects millions every year all over
the world. There are many misconceptions about head and body
lice such as the implication an infected person is "dirty" or
If you or a loved one has head lice, there is no need to
panic. Head lice are very treatable and are considered more
of a nuisance than a health hazard. To prevent and treat head lice
outbreaks, make sure you understand the facts about head
lice. Here are 10 things about head lice you may not have
- Head lice can infest anyone and prefer clean hair. Preschool
and elementary-age children are infested most often.
- Head lice are only passed through direct head to head contact
with a person who is already infested. This commonly happens during
play, sports activities and sometimes sharing clothing such as hats
or hair accessories with an infested person.
- You will not get lice by sitting next to an infested person.
Lice do not fly or jump and you can't get them from
- The National Pediculosis Association estimates that as many as
12 million cases of lice occur each year.
- Head lice are small and wingless, varying in size from 1/16" to
1/8" (about the size of a sesame seed). An adult louse has 6
legs (with claws) and is tan to grayish-white.
- Head lice feed on blood several times daily (every 3-6 hours)
and reside close to the scalp to maintain their body
- Lice move quickly and shy away from light (such as during a
- A Female louse is usually larger than males and can lay up to
10 eggs a day, over 100 in her lifetime. Nits look like
very small grains of rice and hatch in 7-10 days. Nits are
firmly attached to the hair shaft.
- The primary symptom of infestation is itching. Children may
barely notice head lice or have only a mild scalp irritation. The
most common symptoms include: Itching, small red bumps on scalp,
neck and shoulders (lice bites) and infection, accompanied by
swollen glands (less common).
- If dislodged from the host, adult head lice rarely survive
beyond 36 hours and eggs die within 2 weeks.