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Lice 101 for your Family

There are lots of opinions out there about lice and their eggs – nits. Everybody has a miracle cure or a horror story, or a myth they cling to so they don’t have to face the possibility of having lice. Here are all the basics, Lice 101 if you will, including the facts, the myths, and the questions I get asked all the time…


An itching scalp can start weeks or months after you get lice, usually behind the ears and down the back of your neck.

Not everyone itches!  Itching is caused by an allergic reaction lice saliva (blech).

Nits (egg sacs) are the size of a poppy seed, brown or white, and cling to the hair close to the scalp.

Adult bugs are the size of a sesame seed and greyish brown in color, sometimes with a red belly. They are fast and run away from light.

Head lice cannot fly or jump. They crawl between people.

Head lice cannot survive more than 24 hours off the human head.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of head lice is to not share combs or hats.


Lice only like dirty hair…
False. Lice like all hair types, clean or dirty, straight, curly, and short. I always tell kids, “Lice don’t discriminate” (we can learn a lot from them!).

Lice don’t like the smell of hair dye so I’m safe…
False. The smell of dye chemicals fades away after a few washes and does not prevent head lice.

Head lice prefer long hair…
False.  Lice don’t care if hair is long or short.  They like the blood the can get through the scalp.

Only kids get head lice…
False.  Anyone can get head lice, young or old.

You can kill them by keeping your head under water…..

False.  Lice are just fine in water and cannot be washed away or drowned.


I am African American, so I can’t get lice, right?
While statistically African Americans are at lower risk than other populations, I have personally treated many African American families.  Your family can definitely get head lice.

Can my pet get lice?
No. Head lice are a human parasite and require human blood to survive.

How is head lice spread?
Head lice can spread when there is direct contact with the head or hair of the infected person. It can also spread through sharing of personal items such as bike helmets, hats, brushes, combs, hair ties, and pillows.

How to you treat a home or school for lice?
Homes and schools don’t get head lice, people do.  Don’t go crazy vacuuming your house every day. Vacuum the main living areas, couches, rugs and car one time and then forget about it!  Your main focus should be on getting all of the nits out of the infected person’s hair. If you have trouble seeing the nits, get help from a professional.