Facts About Head Lice

Facts About Head Lice

Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp. They are about the size of a sesame seed. They lay eggs, called nits. Nits stick to the hair, very close to the scalp. Children with head lice may have itchy scalps and scratch their heads.

How are head lice spread?

Head lice can be spread through direct head-to-head contact with a person who has lice.

They can also be spread by sharing combs, hats, hairbrushes and headphones.

Head lice do not spread disease.

How to find out if your child has head lice

  • close to the scalp
  • behind the ears
  • the back of the neck
  • top of the head
  • child scratching the head
  • adult lice (sometimes difficult to see because they are very small)
  • eggs - also called nits (easier to see than adult lice)

Nits are firmly attached to the hair, close to the scalp. They are greyish-white and oval in shape, and may look like dandruff but cannot be brushed off.

  • shampoo the hair and rinse
  • put on enough hair conditioner to cover the whole scalp
  • use a wide-toothed comb to untangle the hair if necessary
  • use a fine-toothed comb to search for lice and nits
  • have your child lean over the sink
  • comb the hair from the back of the head to the front
  • after each stroke, wipe the comb on a paper towel and look for lice

If you find any lice or nits, you will have to treat:

You can treat head lice, using the “wet-combing” method, using hair conditioner, or you can use a head lice shampoo, available at drug stores.

Ask your Public Health Nurse or Licensing Officer for a pamphlet that explains how to treat using the “wet-combing” method, or refer to the BC Health File on head lice.

What to do at home

If another child has head lice

Check your child’s hair for nits immediately. It’s a good idea to check children once a week for head lice.

If anyone in your family has head lice

Treat everyone living in the home on the same day and do the following things on the same day that you treat:

  • Clean brushes and combs with very hot water. Everyone should use their own brush or comb.
  • Wash hats, pillow cases and stuffed animals in hot water. Use a hot dryer, if possible.


Children with head lice should begin treatment BEFORE they return to the child care centre or school

Let the child care centre or school know if your child has head lice.

Encourage children not to share items that touch the head

Like hats, brushes, combs, headphones, etc.

It is not necessary to do a lot of house cleaning

Lice do not live long once they are off the scalp.

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