Head lice are tiny insects that live on the skin covering the top of your head (scalp). Head lice may also be found in eyebrows and eyelashes.
Lice spread by close contact with other people.
Pediculosis capitis - head lice; Cooties - head lice
Head lice infect hair on the head. Tiny eggs on the hair look like flakes of dandruff. However, instead of flaking off the scalp, they stay in place.
Head lice can live up to 30 days on a human. Their eggs can live for more than 2 weeks.
Head lice spread easily, particularly among school children ages 3 to 11 years. Head lice are more common in close, overcrowded living conditions.
You can get head lice if:
Having head lice causes intense itching but does not lead to serious medical problems. Unlike body lice, head lice never carry or spread diseases.
Having head lice does not mean the person has poor hygiene or low social status.
Symptoms of head lice include:
Lotions and shampoos containing 1% permethrin (Nix) often work well. You can buy these medicines at the store without a prescription. If these products do not work, a health care provider can give you a prescription for stronger medicine. Always use the medicines exactly as directed. Using them too often or in the wrong way can cause side effects.
To use the medicine shampoo:
You also need to get rid of the lice eggs (nits) to keep lice from coming back.
To get rid of nits:
When treating lice, wash all clothes and bed linens in hot water with detergent. This also helps prevent head lice from spreading to others during the short period when head lice can survive off the human body.
Ask your provider if people who share bedding or clothes with the person who has head lice need to be treated as well.
Ian Burgess is in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Burgess is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Head Lice. He is also highly rated in 1 other condition, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Head Lice and Scabies.
Quentin Anstee is in United Kingdom. Anstee is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Head Lice. He is also highly rated in 9 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, Cirrhosis, and Head Lice.
Robert Myers is a Pediatrics doctor in Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Myers has been practicing medicine for over 40 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Head Lice. He is also highly rated in 15 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Head Lice, and Cirrhosis. He is licensed to treat patients in Ohio. Dr. Myers is currently accepting new patients.
Most of the time, lice are killed with the proper treatment. However, lice can come back if you do not get rid of them at the source.
Some people will develop a skin infection from scratching. Antihistamines can help ease itching.
Call your provider if:
Some of the steps to prevent head lice are:
Burkhart CN, Burkhart GG, Morrell DS. Infestations. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 84.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Parasitic infestations, stings, and bites. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrew's Diseases of the Skin Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 20.
Seifert SA, Dart R, White J. Envenomation, bites, and stings. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 104.