Head lice are tiny blood-sucking insects lice can be spread by sharing objects with these cases (parents, brothers and that live on the human head. Infestations such as hair combs, brushes, hats, sisters, playmates). It is important to do of head lice are common in children and scarves, earphones, and pillows. Head both of these at the same time so that no often spread in schools. Efforts to lice do not fly or jump; they only crawl. unrecognized cases remain untreated. control head lice can cause frustration The environment is NOT an important When further spread occurs, people for both parents and school officials. source of infection. Thus, disinfection of often think that the lice are resistant to Repeated treatments can become furniture, such as chairs and sofas, is treatment. However, what often occurs is expensive. A better understanding of not necessary. Treating your “ping-pong transmission” from head lice infestation helps to control the surroundings or environment is not unrecognized cases. Resistance to problem. helpful to control head lice. Head lice treatment does happen, but should be infestation is not a sign of uncleanliness considered only after other reasons for and is not controlled by baths or regular failure of control have been ruled out. The insect shampoo. All socioeconomic groups are Some of the pediculicides (treatments) affected. Head lice (Pediculus humanus can be bought only with a doctor’s capitis) only infest humans. They do not Head lice do not carry any diseases, but prescription, while others can be bought infest dogs or cats, and pet lice do not constant scratching may lead to scalp without a prescription. Most over-the- infest humans. The adults are less than infection. counter products contain pyrethrin inch long and are grayish-white wingless (Rid®, XXX®, A-200 Pyranate®), a insects with three pairs of legs. Like natural insecticide. These and Lindane mosquitos, they bite to obtain blood Recognizing head lice (Kwell®), a prescription drug, kill adult meals and can cause scalp itching. Adult Itching is the most common symptom. lice but do not kill all the nits. Therefore, lice live for about three to four weeks. Suspect head lice when a person a second treatment is needed about 7- Adult lice and their eggs are found scratches his or her hair frequently. In 10 days after the first treatment, to kill among the hair, especially behind the mild cases, there may be no symptoms. the lice born from surviving nits. Nix®, a ears and on the back of the neck. Recognition of head lice requires careful synthetic permethrin, has the advantage scalp examination of all persons in of attaching to the hair and remaining The eggs, called nits, are cemented to active for about two weeks, killing newly the base of the hair shaft. Nits hatch contact with someone who has head lice. It is important to receive training hatched nits. However, because its after about one week, usually before activity is not 100%, treating again may they are inch from the scalp. It is very from a school or health department nurse before checking for head lice. be necessary. Other drugs, including rare to find living unhatched nits beyond some taken by mouth, may become inch from the scalp. Therefore, although A common sign of head lice is a red or licensed in the future for the treatment of most schools have a ‘no nit’ policy, the irritated scalp, especially around the head lice. living nits, those close to the scalp, are ears or back of the neck. Adult head lice really the only ones of concern. may be difficult to locate. Therefore, Treatment with agents that smother However, parents need to follow the checking for nits is the most reliable way head lice are also effective. These head lice policies of the school where to find infestations. consist of application of petroleum jelly their children are enrolled. (Vaseline®), mineral or olive oil, or even mayonnaise. The person’s head should Head lice die quickly when away from be covered with a shower cap overnight. their human host. Treatment and other control If dealing with a young child, treatment measures can be perfomed during the day using a The best strategy to control head lice is shower cap. How are head lice spread? to combine a) treatment of recognized Do not use products for controlling Head lice are spread mostly by direct cases with b) detection and treatment of animal fleas and ticks on children. This head-to-head contact. Less commonly, infestation among persons in contact can be very harmful. Do not over treat Head beyond instructions on the product being Need More Information? used or beyond the directions of your doctor. Overexposure to chemicals is not healthy. Contact your local Health Department Lice Following a treatment, nits can be or the removed using a special fine-toothed comb. Metal combs may give better results. Several solutions may help NC Department of loosen the nits from the hairs (vinegar Environment and diluted in half with water, or hair Natural Resources conditioner). After the first and second Division of Environmental Health treatments on days 1 and 7, daily use of Public Health Pest Management Section ordinary shampoos followed by use of a 919-733-6407 conditioner or cream rinse and wet combing for 14 days also are or the recommended. Head-to-head contact between children NC Department of Health should be discouraged during outbreaks, and Human Services and children should be made aware of Division of Public Health this. Sharing of personal items (combs, Communicable Disease brushes) that may spread lice should be Control Branch avoided, and outerwear (hats, coats, 919-733-3419 scarves) should be stored separately for each child. Bedding, hats, scarves, and other clothing of persons being treated should be machine-washed in hot water and machine-dried using the hot cycle. Combs and brushes should be washed with a pediculicide solution or soaked in very hot water (about 130 degrees F for 5 minutes) to kill lice and eggs. Clothes which cannot be washed can be disinfected by dry cleaning. Items that may be contaminated also can be sealed in a plastic bag for 10-14 days to kill the lice. Remember that lice soon die ...Some after leaving a human head. Simple State of North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources vacuuming of carpets and furniture will provide further control. Lice do not infest Department of Health and Human Services Facts rooms and, as stated above, A. Dennis McBride, MD, MPH, State Health Director www.dhhs.state.nc.us environmental chemical decontamination is not needed. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, If you have more questions, contact your religion, age or disability in employment or the provision of services. (ERC 89) 6G-8/99 local health department.