Lice are small insects without wings. They are found on the scalp, pubic hair, body, or clothing. Lice lay eggs called nits.
Who gets lice?
- Head lice are most common in children.
- Pubic lice are most common in young adults.
- Body lice are most common in people who do not bathe or wash their clothes often.
Signs of lice are:
- Head lice:
- Severe head and scalp itching
- Infection and redness from itching, which leads to more itching
- Lice and nits in the hair, scalp, behind the eats, or at the nape of the neck
- Pubic lice:
- Severe itching of the genital/anus area
- Lice and nits in pubic hair and/or other parts of the body covered by hair
- Pubic lice are rarely found on the scalp.
- Body lice:
- Severe itching of the skin
- Lice and nits are mostly found in the seams of clothing.
- Body lice are rarely found on the skin.
How are lice spread?
- Head lice are spread through head-to-head contact and by sharing brushes or hats.
- Pubic lice are spread through sexual or very close body contact.
- Body lice are spread by contact with the infected person's clothes or linen.
Lice is treated by:
- Head and pubic lice:
- Use an over-the-counter treatment such as a special shampoo.
- Always check with a pharmacist when buying anything over-the-counter.
- Body lice:
- Take a bath.
- Launder clothes and bed linens in hot water and dry in the dryer.
- Medicines are not needed since body lice live in clothing and not on skin.
How to clean your home after lice
- Vacuum floors, rugs, pillows, furniture.
- Machine wash clothing, linen, and cloth toys in hot water (125° F).
- Items that cannot be machine washed may be:
- Machine dried on the hottest setting for 20 minutes
- Put in a sealed plastic bag for ten days
- Soak combs and brushes in special chemicals or hot water (150° F).
Common myths about lice
|Lice jump or fly from person to person.||Lice do not jump or fly. They can move quickly from head to head only through direct contact.|
|Household pets are carriers.||Lice can only live on humans.|
|Lice infestations result from unclean personal habits or an unclean house.||Lice survive better on a clean head than a dirty one, but dirt and neglect can let lice go unseen.|
|Lice are a sign of disease or poor nutrition.||Lice are the cause of rash, infection, and other poor outcomes, not the result of them.|
|Long hair encourages louse breeding.||There is no link between length of hair and infestation.|
Last reviewed July 2017