Head lice (singularly know as a head louse) are parasites. They need a human host to survive. They live close to the scalp and feed a few times a day. They do not carry diseases. Without a host, a louse will die after 36-48 hours.
Lice have been around for centuries. They are found all over the world and infestations are most common among children and families.
Cleanliness does not relate to susceptibility to contracting head lice.
Lice crawl, they do not fly or jump. Head to head contact is the most common way to transfer lice although they may be spread through clothing and sharing items.
Lice have three stages of life: The egg (nit), the nymph, and the adult stage. Nits take about 8-9 days to hatch. A louse is a nymph for 9-12 days after hatching until it grows to be an adult. A nymph cannot lay eggs. An adult louse can live 30 days, is about the size of a sesame seed and lays about 4-6 eggs per day.
Many strains of head lice have built up immunities and resistance to chemical treatments that are currently on the market. When lice are removed or killed eggs are still present. It is critical to remove these in order to cure an infestation.
Animals cannot get lice.
Head lice can hold their breath for up to 5 hours.
I need to use chemicals to treat lice.
No. Not only are chemicals harmful and unfriendly to the environment and people they are not effective at treating lice. Many families are using both over the counter and prescription strength chemical treatments with no success. Please visit the NPA’s website for more information regarding lice resistance toward these methods at www.headlice.org
Lice jump from child to child.
No. Head lice do not have hind legs or wings to fly or jump. They crawl. The majority of head lice transmissions occur through person-to-person contact as well as the sharing of items such as combs, brushes, hats, helmets, or hair ties.
Dirty kids get lice.
No. Lice like clean hair. They enjoy clean hair that is easy to grasp onto. In fact, to deter lice it is recommended that you use hair spray, mousse or gel to make hair artificially dirty.
Fumigating is the way to kill lice.
No, No. No. Homes don’t get head lice, people do. Spraying the environment or hiring extermination services is unwarranted and can pose potential health risks.
I need to use Vaseline or mayonnaise.
No. Although some people have had success with these products there is no known evidence. These products are very difficult to remove from hair and are not recommended.
I will know if I have lice or if my child has lice.
No. Lice as well as lice eggs (nits) are very difficult to detect. They are very small and blend extremely well into hair. Take a look at When is a Nit not a Nit? to help you. Also, those infected with head lice will not always show signs of itching or scratching.
Once the lice are dead or removed I am cured.
No. Even though live lice may be gone the nits they laid are still attached to individual strands of hair. In order to fully eliminate head lice all nits must be removed. This requires thorough combing and manual removal.
Cleaning Your Home
Vacuuming your home, beds and furniture is the best way to remove lice.Head lice are human parasites and need blood to survive. Therefore, pestiside sprays are not needed or recommended.
Wash and dry any clothing or bed linens that have been in contact with lice. Use the high heat setting.
Any items that cannot be cleaned with a vacuum or placed in the dryer can be cleaned using a lint roller. Examples include car seats, head rests, backpacks, and sleeping mats.
Bagging Stuffed Animals and Other Items
The NPA suggests that bagging items is not necessary. Since head lice need human blood to survive this is not needed. If there are items you are concerned about that cannot be washed or vacuumed (such as helmets, delicate throw pillows) put them in a place where they will have no contact with people for 2-3 days.
Clean all combs, brushes, and hair accessories. You may use a boiled pot of water, the dishwasher or alcohol. Alternatively, you may also gather these items, bag them and put them in the freezer overnight.