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What Are Head Lice?

  • Head lice are tiny grey to brown insects about the size of a sesame seed that live in human hair and must feed on human blood to survive.
  • They lay tiny white oval-shaped eggs about the size of a knot in a thread, called nits that attach to strands of hair close to the scalp. Although it’s hard to see head lice, you can see the nits if you look closely.
  • Nits are most often found in the hair behind the ears and at the back of the head and neck. The first sign of lice is itching of the head, which is caused by the bite of the head lice.
  • Head lice do not spread disease.

How Do You Get Head Lice?

  • Any child can get head lice.
  • Head lice happen mostly with elementary school-aged children.
  • Children get lice from other children through head to head contact during play or sports or nap time, and most often in school settings.
  • Sharing combs, brushes, hair accessories, hats, or lockers can spread head lice.
  • You can’t spread nits…only live lice.

How Do You Get Rid of Head Lice?

  • Use an over-the-counter FDA-approved shampoo treatment found at drug and grocery stores. Follow directions on package exactly.
  • Soak all combs and brushes in very hot water for about 1 hour.
  • Wash sheets, blankets and other bedding in hot water.
  • Seal stuffed animals in a plastic bag for 1 week.
  • Vacuum carpets, furniture and mattresses thoroughly.
  • Re-treat hair again in 7 days.
  • If you have questions or are unsure, check with your doctor.


  • Check all family members, but ONLY treat those that have live lice or have nits (and have not been previously treated).
  • Soak combs and brushes in a solution of the lice shampoo for 1 hour, or in very, very hot water 5-10 minutes after each use and between people.
  • Only ordinary house cleaning and vacuuming are needed. Wash bed linens and recently worn clothing on hot water/dryer settings. Non-washable items (pillows, stuffed toys, backpacks) should be placed in dryer on highest setting for 20 minutes or sealed in a plastic bag for one week.
  • Use of oils, mayonnaise, lotions, creams, and vinegar has not proven effective.
Kerosene, gasoline and similar products do not work and are dangerous. They should not be used.