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How do I get rid of head lice?

Updated on October 7, 2011

What are head lice?

Head Lice are very small insects that live on the scalps of humans! Nice! My head feels itchy already and I've only just started this article. Head Lice are an infestation which is harmless and very easily treated. In order to survive, they need a head to live on. They have no wings, and therefore, have to crawl from head to head. It is extremely common to catch lice in nurseries and schools where children have close contact with one another. If one person catches head lice, then the rest of the family should be checked. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed if you get lice as it really is not about having a dirty head, or lack of hygiene - the truth is that head lice will lay their eggs on any human head and have no preference whether it is clean or dirty.

An adult louse on a strand of hair.
An adult louse on a strand of hair. | Source

A single lice is called a louse.

They cannot fly, but crawl from head to head.

An adult louse is about the same size as a grain of rice.

They lay their eggs on strands of hair.

An empty egg case is called a nit.

Lice vary in colour, but are normally greyish brown.

They will lay their eggs on any head - clean or otherwise.

The three stages of head lice.
The three stages of head lice.

Life cycle of head lice

There are three main stages of head lice:

Egg, Nymph and Adult.

The head lice lays its eggs onto strands of the hair. It is attached to the hair by a glue-like substance with the adult produces.

After 7 days, the lice hatches from the egg. (Juvenile lice are called nymphs).

After a further week or so, the nymph becomes an adult louse. It can then live up to 30 days and lay more eggs, and so the cycle repeats itself. In order to survive, a louse needs to feed on human blood, and it obtains this by biting the scalp to release a small amount of blood. In a single day, a louse may bite you every 3 to 4 hours!

Checking for head lice with a detection comb.
Checking for head lice with a detection comb. | Source

The best way to check the hair for head lice is to part the hair into sections first of all. Head lice aren't easy to detect by just looking, so use a detection comb and comb through each section of the hair. Always comb from the scalp through to the ends, and check the comb to see if any are present. You may find it helpful to use a plain sheet of white paper and empty the comb onto it. This will make it much easier to see if there are any unwanted guests in the hair. While the hair is parted, pay particular attention to the scalp to see if there are any signs of biting e.g. broken skin or bumps.

What to do if head lice are present

If you do find that there is head lice present, there are a number of ways to deal with them:

  1. Wash and condition the hair, and use a detection comb to remove any lice and nits.
  2. Use a 4% dimeticone solution such as Hedrin, which can be bought over the counter at most chemists and pharmacies. Treatment should be repeated after 7 days.
  3. Use a Isopropyl myristate and cyclomethicone treatment such as Full Marks Solution, which can also be bought at leading chemists and pharmacies.

Never treat as a preventative measure if no head lice are found as this will only make them resistant to treatments in the future. Check the whole family immediately if head lice is found in one person. Always treat promptly to eradicate the infestation as quickly as possible. Never send your child to school if you know that the have lice which requires treatment as this could infect many more children. If you have been in contact with someone prior to finding out you have head lice, always let them know in order that they can check their families hair too.


There are a few steps that you can take to try and prevent the spread of head lice:

  • Never share your brush or comb with anyone
  • Never wear clothes or sleep with the same bedding as someone you know or suspect to have head lice.
  • Check the hair of yourself and your family once a week for signs of lice.


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    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      @ tirelesstraveler - Thank you for your comments. I remember listening to a talk at school from the nurse about head lice and immediately I felt like my head was itchy. I'm sure the other parents must have thought I actually had head lice. Thanks for stopping by.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      lol, amazing how we itch when writing about itchy things.

      Very good ideas. Love how singular lice are lousy :)

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      ubanichijoke - Many thanks for your kind comments. Always nice to hear from you.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 6 years ago from Lagos

      A great piece, useful, informative and articulate.


    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Hi caitmo1. I love your poem about head lice, it's great. My head itched so bad when I was writing this hub! Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes.

    • caitmo1 profile image

      caitmo1 6 years ago from Lancashire England

      A brilliant article about these horrible creepy crawlies.This is a poem I wrote when my granddaughter had them.-

      'Look out, look out, head lice are about, they're after your children and you. So when you get home , get out the nit comb and comb everyone's hair through and through'