Healthy Living

What Causes Head Lice?

Head Lice

What Causes Head Lice?

Head lice aresmallparasites that are found in the heads of human beings.They cling to human hairand feed off the blood from the scalp. They can be usually seen near the nape of the neckand behind the ears.

 Pediculosis capitis, which is the head louse that causes the head lice infection is not the same as the lice that leads to infection of the body and pubic hair. 

Are head lice common?

The infestation of head lice is very common in human beings. Head lice are particularly common among school children below 11 years of age.  Approximately one in every 10 kids in schools has the infestation of head lice. In the US, more than six million people are infested by head lice.

Since humanity began, lice have been in existence. The head louse has been in existence for more than 70,000 years according to studies.

Head lice can affect human beings only. Animals cannot catch lice from or transmit to humans.

Who are more prone to head lice?

Head lice are highly contagious. If you have close contact with an individual who is infested with head lice and their belongings you are more likely to get head lice. Spreading head lice is very easy.They are transferred from the hair of one person to another’s through head to head contact.

Children in elementary school and preschoolers are more prone to these head lice including the members of their families.

Females are more likely to get these lice than the males.

Head lice are seen in equal measure in children with both long and short hair.


Causes of head lice

These lice are very transmittable. You can get this type of lice if they crawl into your head. Other ways you may get them include:

  • The head of an infected person coming in contact with your head.
  • Sharing personal belongings of an infected person.

Sharing an infected person’s things such as hats, hair brushes, scarves, combs and towels is one of the causes of getting lice.

  • Using a fabric item that a person with head lice had once used it.

The head lice can harbor for a long time in beddings, upholstered furniture, clothing and towels. They can be transmitted by barrettes, headphones, hats, combs, headbands and brushes.

  • The infestation of lice is not caused by poor personal hygiene. Lice are found on dirty and clean hair.


Symptoms of Head lice

They include:

  • A crawling feeling on the scalp
  • Severe itchiness on the scalp.
  • Excessive scratching causes irritation and redness on the scalp and neck region.
  • Scabs and sores on the scalp because of the scratching.

An itchy scalp alone is not a symptom of lice. Itching can be caused due to dandruff or eczema too.

Sometimes the scalp may not itch until a few weeks after the lice have come.

In some cases, where the person is not allergic to lice, the symptoms may not manifest at all. In such cases the presence of lice is not detected easily.


How to detect Head Lice / Diagnosis

It is essential to check that the itching is caused by lice.

Examining the hair by parting them into sections helps in tracing lice and nits.

 Combing the hair on to a white cloth or paper by a fine comb will cause the lice and nits to fall on the paper. This can be done on dry or wet hair.

Every member of the family and any other person who is in close contact must be examined for lice so that treatment can begin.

 How is head lice transmitted?

Since they are unable to fly or jump, the head lice can only crawl. Direct contact is the common method of head lice transmission. This is more common among family members or kids either when playing or school.

It has been known that using static electricity to brush dry hair can cause head lice to fly for a small distance.

You not likely get lice through indirect transmission although head lice can be transferred from one person to the other by sharing items like:

  • Pillows
  • Towels
  • Combs and brushes
  • Hair accessories
  • Scarves and hats
  • Upholstery
  • Headphones

Clothes that are stored together can cause indirect transmission. For instance, scarves and hat sharing one hook could be used to transmit the head lice.

  • Head lice cannot spread through water in a swimming pool. Head lice can survive under water for a long time. They hold on tightly to hair and the chlorine levels in the pool do not harm them in any way.

Treatment for head Lice

The following methods of treating lice can achieve good results but not hundred percent effective. Some treatments mmay require to be repeated after a week or two.

  • Medication

Medicated shampoos, creams and lotions are available in pharmacies over the counter.

It is very important to read and follow instructions prescribed on the medicated products and ensure that they are safe to use.

If the lice are still resistant to the medication it is wise to consult the pediatrician.


Other treatments for head lice

To remove head lice, you can use a lice comb that is fine-toothed if you do not prefer pesticides. The lice and nits will stick to the comb. Begin combing at the scalp and then comb till the hair’s end.

Do this in every 2-3 days until you are sure the lice are removed completely.


How to treat your home

Using pesticides in your home may not be required. The head lice cannot live for several days once it is not in your head. Use the following ways to eliminate head lice:

  • Use hot water to wash beddings and clothes and dry them under high heat
  • Dry-clean beddings and clothes
  • Use hot water to soak all hair accessories like combs and brushes
  • For two weeks, seal beddings, clothes and toys in a plastic container
  • Upholstered furniture and floors should be vacuumed.


In case the treatments have not been successful in removing lice fully, it is better to consult a dermatologist for advice.