Frequently Asked Questions
What are head lice?
Small blood-sucking insects known as Pediculus humanus capatis. They live on a human scalp. A single insect is called a louse.
Where are head lice commonly found?
On the scalp, behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck. They are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows. Females lay eggs at the base of the hair shaft. Once hatched, head lice firmly attach themselves to the hair.
What do head lice look like?
Lice come in three forms: the egg (called a nit), the nymph, and the adult. Often hard to see, nits resemble tiny oval shaped seeds, yellow to white in color. They are about the size of a knot in thread, and often confused with dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits hatch into nymphs, the size of a pinhead. Within a week, nymphs mature into adults, about the size of a sesame seed.
Is this lice in my child’s hair? I can’t tell for sure.
Send us a photo! Try to get a well-lit, focused close-up — and we’ll analyze it for you and let you know what we think. A free service from Lice Ranger to you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or text it to us at 713.868.5423.
Who is at greatest risk for getting head lice?
Anyone in close contact with the hair of someone with head lice. Preschool and elementary-age children, 3-11 years, and their families are infested most often (6 million to 12 million infestations a year in the U.S., says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC). Girls get head lice more often than boys.
How did my child get head lice? How is it spread?
Through head-to-head contact. This typically occurs during play at school, playgrounds, home, friends’ houses and camp. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. (They love clean kids!)
Less common ways lice can spread include:
Wearing clothing, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, or hair ribbons recently worn by an infested person.
By using infested combs, brushes or towels.
By using a bed, pillow or sleeping bag recently used by someone with lice or touching a carpet or a stuffed animal where that person has been
If one of my children has head lice, will another get them, too?
Probably, about 80% of the time, one child passes head lice on to any siblings or to their mother. About 20% of the time, dads get them from their kids, while nannies get them 35% of the time. That’s how easily lice spread.
My kid is itching and scratching. Is that a head lice symptom?
Once scratching starts, most likely you’ve had head lice for one or two weeks. That itchy feeling is caused by an allergic reaction to the bites. The first signs of head lice include a tickling sensation, like something moving in the hair; also, sores on the head from scratching.
What about over-the-counter remedies or home remedies — are they effective?
Not really, and some can be harmful. The Harvard School of Public Health has stated that head lice are “resistant to permethrin and lindane” (toxic lice-fighting products now banned in California). The National Pediculosis Association (NPA) advises parents to discontinue use of head lice pesticides, which have been associated anecdotally with seizures, behavioral changes, learning issues, cancer and skin diseases.
How long can lice and nits survive off of a head?
Once laid, it takes 7-10 days for a nit to hatch. Nits off the head may not even hatch at all as they are laid close to scalp because they need human warmth to incubate. A nit hatching off of a head results in tiny nymph head louse which, without an accessible/nearby human, is doomed because it requires an immediate blood meal. Adult head lice off of their human hosts will generally not survive for more than 24 hours.
How do you treat a home or school for lice?
Homes or schools don't get head lice - people do. Head lice are human parasites and require human blood to survive. Vacuuming is the safest and best way to remove lice or fallen hairs with attached nits from upholstered furniture, rugs, stuffed animals or car seats - wherever someone with head lice may have rested their head. Pesticidal sprays are unwarranted and may pose personal and environmental hazards. Vacuum and save your time and energy for what benefits you the most - thorough nit removal.
Do pets get lice?
No, head lice cannot be “caught” from pets and cannot survive on pets. They are human
parasites and require human blood for survival.