Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Head Lice, But Were

Lisa Rafal
Lice Lifters®
What Are Lice?
Human head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are parasitic
wingless insects that make their home on the human head.
They feed on human blood and lay their eggs (nits) on human
hair. The warmth and moisture on our heads provides the perfect
environment for them.
When a person has lice, it is referred to as an infestation. The
formal medical term is “Pediculosis.”
How do we get head lice?
• Over 90% of cases are passed on by direct head to head
contact with an infested individual
• Sharing of personal items (i.e. hair brushes, hats, batting
or bike helmets, hair accessories, dress up clothes, etc.)
with someone who has head lice is the second most
common way to transfer lice between hosts
• Environmental transfer, which is picking up a bug from
furniture or a seat back in a movie theater or airplane,
accounts for no more than 2% of cases
How Do I Know if Someone in My Family
Has Lice?
• While not everyone will be itchy from head lice, if you
have a child who seems to be scratching his/her head
significantly, it may be an indication that lice are present
• The presence of nits (eggs) in the hair is definitive
evidence of head lice infestation
• In more severe cases, you may begin notice small bites
on your child’s neck or scalp, similar to mosquito bites but
• It is rare to see live bugs in the early stages of infestation,
but as activity increases on the head, you may see bugs
in the hair. If you see something move on the child’s head
but then don’t see anything, it could be a head louse.
They move from the light very quickly to avoid detection
What do head lice and their eggs(nits) look
On the left is a male and on the right is a female louse.
Females are larger than males. Lice have 2 body segments
and six legs in addition to 2 antennae located at the tops of
their heads.
How to Find Nits
Nits may be found all over the head, but the “hot spots”
tend to be the crown, behind the ears, the nape of the neck
and in the bangs. Nits are glued securely to the hair shaft.
When looking at the hair, if you see something you suspect
may be a nit, if you brush at it with your hand and it moves,
it is NOT a nit. When removed from the hair, nits are
typically a greyish-brown color, but can range in color from
cream to dark brown and look like tiny sesame seeds
How to Do a Thorough Home Head Check
• Wet the hair
• If the hair is long enough, divide into sections: for girls
divide the hair down the middle of the head and then
further divide each half of the head into 3 or 4 sections,
depending on how thick the hair is. Use clips or ponytail
holders to hold the sections that aren’t being combed
• Use a good quality stainless steel nit comb to comb
through each section. The combing should be done from
the top, bottom, right and left (N,S,E & W). Make sure to
drag the comb directly down the scalp and pull the comb
straight through the hair to the ends
• Wipe the comb on a white paper towel and examine
anything you remove from the hair
What do I do if I find lice or nits on my child?
• The most important thing is not to panic. Lice, while a major
annoyance, are not a threat to your child’s health or well-being. Head
lice infestation can be devastating to a child’s self-esteem, and a
parental response can either soothe this or exacerbate it. Remain
calm, you will get through this!
Explore your treatment options
Every member of your family should be checked for lice
your child has lice they got it from someone and have likely passed it
on to someone else as well. If you do not inform your circles (friends,
playdates, extracurricular activities, etc.) the likelihood that you will
become re-infested from someone is greater. You should go back 2-3
weeks to anyone with whom your child/family has had close contact
to report the problem. In particular, children in whose homes your
child has been and who have been in your home.
Act in a timely manner. Unlike some things, this problem never
improves with time.
Non-Toxic Treatment Options
• Head lice can be treated at home with the right tools and a
commitment of time and effort. Success depends on
removing ALL nits and live bugs from the hair.
• Professional Nitpickers
• The FDA-cleared LouseBuster™
• Kills over 99% of nits
• Approved for use in children 4 and over
• Non-toxic over the counter products are another aid in
treating head lice infestation. There are currently products
available (The Nit Nanny, LiceMD) that work to eliminate live
activity, however they do not kill or remove nits from the
hair. Using these products alone does not eliminate an
Other Treatment Options
• Over-the-Counter Pesticides
• Rid contains Pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide
• Nix contains Permethrin
• Prescriptions
• Kwell (Lindane)—Carcinogenic, Banned in CA
• Ulesfia (Benzyl Alcohol)– Can be uncomfortable with irritated scalp, alcohol
is systemically absorbed
• Ovide (Malathion)—partially ovicidal, treatment takes 8-12 hours
• Natroba (Spinosad & Benzyl Alcohol)— partially ovidicidal, causes lice to
shake until they die of paralysis, alcohol is systemically absorbed
• Sklice (Ivermectin)—an antiparastic which is partially ovicidal and can
interact with some other medications, traditionally used for ringworm and
All of these treatments contain toxic chemicals. With the exception of Natroba and
Malathion, they do not kill nits (eggs). Additionally, many of these options are not
successful with only one treatment which means that success depends on retreating and repeatedly exposing your family to applications of toxic substances on
the sensitive skin of the scalp.
Prevention Tips
• Girls’ hair should be pulled back, in braids or a bun when possible.
Loose flying hair comes in contact with other heads more easily.
Boys’ hair should be kept trimmed, when feasible.
Children should be instructed to limit head to head contact with other
Advise your children not to share personal items with other children,
i.e. brushes, combs, hats, hair accessories, helmets, etc.
Keep hair care items separate for every member of the family. Use
plastic shoe boxes, ziploc bags, separate drawers in the bathroom, to
maintain separate brushes, combs, hair accessories, etc.
Brush or comb hair daily. Lice do not like to be disturbed.
While not a guarantee, use of a repellent can be helpful. Look for a
product with peppermint (The Nit Nanny Mint Spray) or citronella
(FairyTales Rosemary Repel Spray). Always look for a leave-in
product, do not invest money in a product that gets rinsed out of the
hair. It can’t repel lice when it’s in your drain!
LICE! If you don’t you are far more likely to be re-infested.
Well, I heard that…
• Getting lice means you’re dirty
• Using a lot of hair gel means you won’t get lice
• You can get nits without a bug
• African-Americans can’t get lice
• My dog/cat can get lice
• I need to throw out my pillows, brushes, hair accessories
if we get lice in our house
• Lice spread diseases
• Lice can fly and jump
Fact VS Fiction
• Getting lice means you’re dirty
NO! Lice prefer clean hair. Dirty, oily hair does not offer
the best environment in which to lay their eggs.
Although lice are survivors and will go anywhere there
is a head for them!
• Using a lot of hair gel means you won’t get lice
NO! While having less fly away hair may make it less
likely that lice will get a “leg up” into your child’s head,
gel and hairspray alone do not create a deterrent.
• You can get nits without a bug
NO! Nits, once removed from the hair CANNOT reattach to another hair on the same head, nor can they
attach to another head.
• African-Americans can’t get lice
NO! While it’s true that lice don’t prefer the shape of
African American hair, ethnicity of ANY kind is not a
guarantee of anything.
Fact VS Fiction
• My dog/cat can get lice
• NO! They are HUMAN HEAD LICE. Regardless of what kind
of dog/cat you have, unless it is part human, it is not a
suitable host for a human head louse.
I need to throw out my pillows, brushes, hair accessories if we
get lice in our house
NO! It is possible to adequately clean or isolate everything
in your home after an infestation. The tendency to go on a
mass purge only adds to the financial cost of the
Lice spread diseases
NO! They are certainly unpleasant, but ultimately
Lice can fly and jump
NO! They are wingless insects, and while they can crawl
up to 9” a minute, they do not jump or fly.
Head lice infestation causes the loss of tens of millions of
school and work days for millions of families across the US
every year.
The two largest issues with head lice infestation are
1) Parents feeling ashamed or intimidated and therefore
not reporting cases
2) Inadequate treatment leading to ongoing infestation.
We can all acknowledge that having bugs on our children or
ourselves is unpleasant, but how we react to this issue
determines how our children and our friends react to it. One of
the most important things we can do is work to eliminate the
stigma associated with head lice. By eliminating the negative
associations people carry with respect to lice, we can increase
reporting, more effectively identify outbreaks and help children
through this problem without impacting their self esteem.
What are your specific questions about head lice?

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