About Head Lice

  • Read lice information from the Washington State Department of Health >>

    • Head lice can be found on the hairs of the head, behind the ears and back of the neck.
    • Lice can live up to 24 hours off the body.
    • Lice lay oval, whitish nits (eggs), not to be confused with dandruff which is flaky, or droplets of spray. The nits are usually found attached to hair at the back of the neck. Usually the live nits (eggs) will be found within ¼ inch of the scalp.

    How are lice spread?

    • Head lice cannot hop or jump, but are transmitted by close contact with infected articles such as hats, brushes, combs, pillows, backs of chairs, car seats or head-to-head contact with people who have lice.
    • School children should not share clothing or other personal articles.
    • A hair dryer can be used to help prevent head lice.
    • Head lice can be contracted by anyone, clean or dirty, rich or poor.

    Myths about Lice

    • MYTH: Lice prefer long hair. FACT: Short-haired people are equally vulnerable.
    • MYTH: Infected persons always experience persistent itching. FACT: A person may feel no discomfort whatsoever.
    • MYTH: Classroom contacts are the highest risk of infestation. FACT: Although classrooms are a source of spread, a higher risk is in the home.
    • MYTH: Lice generally infest only children under 15 years of age. FACT: Head lice can and do affect anyone, child or adult.
    • MYTH: The incidence of head lice is higher in low social-economic groups. FACT: Lice do not respect income levels.
    • MYTH: Lice infestation is proof of poor personal hygiene or a dirty home environment. FACT: Cleanliness is important but lice infestation is a communicable pest, against which personal cleanliness is no safeguard.

Head Lice Treatment

  • Procedures for Treating Head Lice

    • Examine and treat all household members at the same time.
    • Use medicated rinse or shampoo for lice (Pediculocidal). If using NIX crème rinse, use after hair has been washed with shampoo, rinsed with water and towel dried. A sufficient amount should be applied to saturate hair and scalp. Leave on hair for 10 minutes. Rinse with water. If using a shampoo, apply a generous amount to dry hair, rub vigorously for 5-10 minutes, then add warm water, lather and rinse with water.
    • Use only a lice comb or long-toothed comb approved by your health room staff to remove all nits from hair. Additional removal by hand is usually necessary. Continue to comb nightly for two weeks.
    • A solution of warm water and vinegar (1:1) may be used to help loosen nits.

    Personal Articles and Environment

    • Wash all bedding, clothing and towels in the hottest water and/or air dry in a hot dryer (20 minutes). Toys that are slept with should also be cleaned.
    • Non-washables should be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.
    • Soak all combs, brushes, etc. in hot (150° F) water and disinfectant (may use medicated shampoo or ammonia, Lysol, or other such cleansing agents) for 1 hour.
    • Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture, bed mattresses, car seats and headrests and dispose of vacuum bag immediately.

    Notify Others

    • Parents of children that have been in close contact with your child should be notified, especially if the children have had a sleepover or participated in activities involving body contact.