What is head lice?

Head lice (pediculosis capitis) are very tiny insects that live on the human scalp and feed on blood.  While feeding, lice inject saliva into the skin that causes itching.  An adult head louse lives from 16-30 days.  Persistent scratching on the scalp and behind the ears is a sign that head lice may be present.  Anyone, adult or child, can get head lice.  Nearly 6-12 million children get head lice every year.  It has nothing to do with cleanliness and does not reflect poorly on you as a parent.  Lice love clean hair contrary to some misinformation out there.  Let’s normalize lice so that all parents know what to look for and are comfortable for informing others when their children have it so we can stop spreading it.


What does having head lice look like?

Usually the head lice eggs or “nits” are easier to spot.  Nits look like tiny, white specks (smaller than the head of a pin) cemented on the hair shaft, near the scalp, and are found especially at the nape of the neck and behind the ears.  You will notice that these specks don’t move or flake off easily.  Nits are small yellowish or grayish-white oval-shaped eggs that are “glued” at an angle to the side of a hair shaft.


How did my child get head lice?

Children are particularly susceptible to head lice due to their close contact in play with others.  It has nothing to with cleanliness.  Being clean won’t prevent head lice; anyone can get them.  Head lice easily crawl from one warm body to the next. Head lice can’t jump or fly, but they can crawl.

If you are able to answer yes to any of the three questions below, then you can probably identify the source:

  1. Has your child recently shared close space with siblings or friends? Let’s be honest, it’s a preschool and our children don’t have much understanding of “personal space” yet so this is always a, “yes”.
  2. Has your child shared combs, brushes, hats, dress up clothes, helmets or hair bows with other children? Probably, yes.  Again, these are preschoolers and they love to share and love to dress up.
  3. Has your child given hugs to others? Our children are so loving and full of hugs, so yes.

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