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Head Lice

What are lice?
Where are head lice found?
What are the symptoms of head lice?
How are head lice spread?
How can I keep from getting head lice?
What treatments are available for head lice? How serious is the disease?
Do people with head lice need to be kept out of school, child care or work?
Where can I get more information on lice?

What are lice?
Head lice are very small, tan-colored insects (less than 1/8 of an inch long) that live on human heads. They lay their eggs or nits on the hair. The eggs are tiny (about the size of the eye of a small needle) and gray or white in color.

Lice feed on human blood, but head lice are not known to spread disease.

Where are head lice found?
Lice exist worldwide and are often found in the hair, bedding or clothing of infested persons.

What are the symptoms of head lice?Boy scratches head

Itching of the scalp or neck. Look for:
1. Crawling lice in the hair, usually few in number
2. Eggs (nits) glued to the hair, often found behind the ears and at the base of the neck
3. Scratch marks on the scalp or back of the neck at hairline

How are head lice spread?

Lice are spread by direct person-to-person contact and by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, hats, scarves, jackets, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, headphones, etc.

Lice do not hop, jump or fly; they crawl and can fall off the head. Head lice do not live longer than 48 hours off the head. They only lay their eggs while on the head. Live eggs can be found anywhere on the hair. Also, the eggs do not hatch if they fall off. Lice do not spread to or from pets.


 
How can I keep from getting head lice?

1. Avoid sharing hair care items, towels, bedding, clothing, hats and headgear, such as headsets and sports helmets.
2. Hang clothing in individual lockers or on assigned coat hooks and spaced so they do not touch.
3. Hats should be tucked into sleeves.
4. All contaminated combs, brushes and similar items must be sanitized by one of the following:
a. Soaking in the medicated shampoo for 10 minutes
b. Soaking in a 2 percent Lysol* solution for one hour
c. Soaking in hot water for 10 minutes
5. Clean floors, furniture, mattresses, and carpeting by thorough vacuuming and dispose of vacuum bag. The use of insecticide spray is not recommended.
6. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens and other items that an infested person wore or used during the two 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 two or more days.
7. Check your child’s head frequently throughout the year. If one person in a family, child care, school, etc., has head lice, others should be checked, too. Only those who have head lice should be treated. Pretreatment will not prevent a child from getting lice.

What treatments are available for head lice? How serious is the disease?

1. Use a lice-killing shampoo, lotion or cream rinse obtained either over the counter at the drugstore or by prescription from your health care provider.
2. Follow the product’s approved directions only as some treatments are toxic. Directions will vary, depending on the product used. If additional treatments are necessary, after following product directions, contact your health care provider. Do not exceed recommended product directions.
3. The nits are glued onto the hair shafts as they are laid, and they are difficult to remove. Although it can take time and sometimes be difficult, remove all nits to insure complete treatment.


Do people with head lice need to be kept out of school, child care or work?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend removing a child from school or a child care setting if he/she is found to have lice. The same goes for adults in a work setting. Lice can easily be treated after going home at the end of the day and be gone by the next day.

Where can I get more information on lice?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention