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How to Protect Your Kids from Head Lice Infestation?

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How to Protect Your Kids from Head Lice Infestation?

4 min read


This article discusses in detail the prevention and treatment of head lice.

Written by

Dr. Vinay Kumar

Medically reviewed by

Dr. K. Shobana

Published At August 29, 2015
Reviewed AtMarch 6, 2024

What Are Head Lice?

The lice feed and grow on human hairs, especially on the scalp, and lay their eggs on the hair. The lice can be seen with the naked eye, although it is common to see the aggregates of eggs (called nits) attached to the shafts of hairs. To check that the structures attached to the hairs are indeed lice eggs, a fairly simple way is to attempt detaching the suspected nits away from the hair. In the case of nits, one will not succeed at that, but one can slide the nits along the length of the hairs. The lice feed on blood and die if they are not fed for a couple of days.

What Is Pediculosis Capitis?

The medical condition involving infestation with human lice is called pediculosis capitis. Head lice (lice is the plural of louse) is one of the commonest parasitic infestations involving infection with the adult mites and their eggs, leading to various degrees of skin and hair changes that may be mild to severe.

The infection mainly affects the pre-school and school children, with more girls being affected than boys. However, no age is exempted from this condition. It is the hygiene that matters most. The condition is diagnosed based on visual examination and symptoms. The infection spreads by direct and contact-mediated by shared objects, particularly combs and hairbrushes.

What Are the Causes of Head Lice Infestation and How It Is Transmitted?

The causes of head lice infestation and its transmission are as follows:

  • The most common way of transmitting head lice is head-to-head contact with an infected person. It can be transmitted through playing, taking group photos, sleeping, and hugging.

  • Lice can also be transmitted by sharing personal items, such as combs, hair brushes, headphones, hair accessories, and hats.

  • It can also be transmitted to family members and roommates by sharing beds, pillows, and couches.

  • School-going children are more likely to get infested with lice due to close contact.

  • Public places, such as theaters and buses, are the areas where people come in direct head-to-head contact and transmit head lice.

What Are the Symptoms of Head Lice Infestation?

The most frequent complaints in head lice infections are:

  • Irritation.

  • Rash.

  • Bumps.

  • Swollen glands.

  • Oozing and matting of hair.

  • Fever.

Please remember that many cases may be free of symptoms despite carrying the infection. Therefore, it is essential to trace the source of infection and treat all contacts simultaneously.

When to See a Doctor In Case of Head Lice Infestation?

Head lice infestations are not generally harmful. In the following situations, it is advisable to see a doctor are as follows:

  • When the person is in doubt, about whether the itching is caused by head lice or any other condition.

  • If the over-the-counter medications fail to eliminate the infestation, they can contact a doctor for alternative treatments.

  • In case of secondary infection, such as sores, pus, redness, and swelling, the person may contact a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and treatment.

  • Lice infestation in young children and infants needs medical attention.

  • Pregnant and breastfed individuals need to consult a healthcare professional.

  • Allergic reaction to lice bites.

What Is the Treatment for Head Lice Infestation?

It makes good sense for the patient to have a haircut before starting the treatment.

Before starting treatment, it should be ensured that secondary infections in the form of ulcers, pus-filled lesions, and bumps have been adequately taken care of because the main treatment involves using medicines that may irritate the skin if used without controlling secondary infection first.

The treatment involves the application of medication to the whole scalp and all along the length of hairs after washing and combing with a fine comb having narrow spaces between the bristles. It must be left in place for one to two nights to have sufficient contact of medicine with the infected area.

From time to time, manual removal of nits with special combs is beneficial as it reduces the overall load of infection. All contacts should receive the treatment simultaneously.

The treatment should be repeated week after week as long as all live mites have been killed and the nits have been removed. This is generally ensured by simple visual scanning. Periodic examination of the scalp is necessary to prevent a recurrence.

It is equally important to treat the infected person’s head and scalp accessories appropriately to disinfect them. For example, the heat-resistant clothes can be machine washed using a hot cycle at a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius or higher in water for 20 minutes or sealed in plastic bags and stored for two weeks. Likewise, one can soak combs and brushes in alcohol or chemical disinfectant, dry them, seal them in plastic bags, and keep them again in the freezer for two weeks.

Over-the-counter shampoos and lotions can also help treat head lice. However, if these do not work, the doctor might recommend prescription shampoos to get rid of head lice, such as,

  • Benzyl alcohol lotion.

  • Malathion.

  • Lindane shampoo.

How to Prevent Head Lice Infestation?

The following measures might be followed adequately to prevent head lice infestation in children:

  • Educate the children to avoid sharing products like comb, hairbrushes, shawls, towels, helmets, caps, pillows, scarves, and sleeping bags. These products come in contact with the head, and if used following an infested child's usage, the risk of lice transmission is high.

  • Clean the areas that child shares with other children and those they come in contact with, like the pillows, car seats, headphones, etc.

  • Make it a practice for child to put hats and coats in a separate hook while hanging them in their school. Teach them to avoid piling the items that contact their head with other children.

  • Teach the child to minimize head-to-head contact with other children in school.

  • The children should be inspected for head lice at least once every week. The most common places where one can look for head lice are behind the ears, at the back of your child's head, or near the neck region. Wetting the child's hair can cause the lice to slow down, making inspection easy.

  • Itchy scalp, reddish bumps around the neck and scalp are some common findings in children with lice infestation.

How Are Head Lice Different from Dandruff?

Dandruff is a condition that produces scales in the scalp and is called seborrheic dandruff. Unlike, it is believed, one cannot acquire dandruff from another individual. On the other hand, head lice are parasites transmitted from one person to another.


Head louse is a common manifestation in school-going children. Although not a severe condition, it can bring about itching and bump formation in children in severe cases. Also, it can be a disgusting condition that can cause the affected child to be neglected by their friends, which impacts the child's mental health. Therefore, constant evaluation for head lice in the child is needed, and also educating the child about the important ways to prevent head lice infestation is mandatory. Reach out to a healthcare provider when this problem persists for a more extended period even after taking the necessary treatment measures.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Prevent Lice From Spreading in the House?

By following these tips at home, the spreading of head lice can be prevented:
Avoid head-to-head contact during play and other activities.
Do not share hats, scarves, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
Do not share combs, towels, brushes, or towels. Disinfect them by soaking them in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Do not lie on pillows, beds, couches, or carpets that have been in contact with an infected person.
Machine wash and dry clothes that an infested person wore or used.
Do not use fog or fumigation spray.


What Can Be Used to Kill Lice and Eggs Instantly?

Benzyl alcohol lotion 5 %, Ivermectin lotion 0.5 %, and Malathion lotion 0.5 % have been proven as an effective pediculicidal (kills lice) and partially ovicidal (kills lice eggs).


What Is the Most Effective Head Lice Repellent?

Permethrin lotion 1 % is the safest and most effective head lice repellent, and the FDA (food and drug administration) approves it. Permethrin kills not only live lice and unhatched eggs but also continues to kill newly hatched lice after several days of treatment.


How Does an Individual Get Head Lice?

A person gets head lice usually through direct contact with another person's infected hair or by sharing items with an infected person, including brushes, combs, and hats.


How Long Can Lice Survive on a Hairbrush?

Head lice can survive up to 48 hours off the head without a blood meal. They usually feed every four hours, so up to 48 hours is the limit.


Why Do Some People Keep Getting Lice Recurrently?

Few kids get recurrent lice infestation; this can be due to the lice treatment used did not work effectively or the infected person or their family member coming in contact with lice again.


How Long Can Lice Go Unnoticed?

The most common symptom of head lice infection is itching. Some people may not have noticeable symptoms, particularly during the first infestation or mild infestation. Itching may take 4 to 6 weeks to appear the first time.


Are Lice Interested in a Certain Blood Type?

Researchers have shown that head lice prefer positive blood types over negative blood types. However, lice have the ability to feed and sustain in all different blood types.


How to Examine One’s Head for Lice?

Place two mirrors facing one another in a bright place, and examine the scalp by sectioning the hair. Lice will be crawling on the scalp where the hair is parted. They are dark in color and the size of a poppy seed.


Can Adults Get Head Lice?

Head lice can affect people of all ages. Children are more prone to get affected by a head lice infestation from schools, daycares, and nurseries, and most often, adults may get an infection from children. Although, males are affected somewhat less than females.


Is It Possible to Detect Lice Crawling in the Head?

An infected person might actually be able to feel the lice crawling on the scalp as it causes the sensation of something tickling or moving in the head.


Can People With Gray Hair Get Lice?

Head lice can affect people of any age, gender, and race. Usually, people with medium-long hair are more prone to lice when compared to those who have long or short-length hair.


What Amount of Lice Are Normal?

An infection of lice is called pediculosis. Generally, in a healthy child, an infestation usually involves 10 to 15 live lice. Mostly it will be asymptomatic in the earlier period.


Is It Possible to Prevent Lice Infection?

By avoiding head-to-head contact during play and other activities at school, home, etc. And not sharing clothing like hoodies, hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons, or barrettes. Also, by not sharing combs, brushes, or towels, lice infection can be prevented.
Dr. Vinay Kumar
Dr. Vinay Kumar



itchy scalpparasitic infectionnits
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