Head Lice

Head lice are parasites. The are grey/brown in colour and measure approximately 2 to 4 mm. Nits are the eggs and empty egg shells.

Lice and nits

  • Head lice nest in hair close to the scalp.
  • An adult louse lives for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • The eggs and egg-shells are white.
  • The lice move about, crawling close to the scalp. Nits remain stuck to the hair shaft and are difficult to remove.
  • Head lice are very common in children and more commonly boys.
  • The presence of lice is not caused by a lack of hygiene, it is a very common problem.
  • Lice cannot hop, jump or fly.
  • Lice die if they are away from the head for more than 24 hours.

Symptoms of head lice

  • Intense itching of the scalp.
  • They are visible to the naked eye.

Live lice on the scalp

Head lice and nits are found on the scalp, behind the ears, on the nape of the neck and on the top of the head.

Transmission of lice

The lice walk from one persons head to another. They prefer short hair to remain close to the scalp.

Preventing lice

There is no preventive treatment to avoid lice.

Detecting Lice

  • Check for lice if your child has been in close contact with another person who has lice.
  • Check every few days for approximately 2 weeks.
  • A detection comb is the recommended method.
  • Wet combing - after washing the hair, use lots of conditioner and proceed to comb the hair in sections starting very close to the hair roots. Check the comb for lice and nits after each stroke and wipe any away. Wash the conditioner away after completing the whole head.

Treating lice

  • Various types of head lice products are sold at chemists.
  • There are several effective treatments to get rid of the lice and nits: get advice from the chemist or your GP.
  • Most lotions need to be left in the hair for 8 or more hours and repeated 2 weeks apart - you must check the instructions
  • Wet combing on its own is an effective treatment but needs to be repeated every 4 days for 2 weeks.
  • Follow carefully the administration instructions.

The main principles

  • Only use a nit comb.
  • Apply the lotions only if you see living moving lice. Nits (empty egg shells) can remain after treatment therefore can be removed with a nit comb.
  • Do not leave the lotion on the head for more than the period of time stated.
  • Ensure that the whole scalp is covered with the product, sectioning off each portion of hair.
  • Don't forget to apply the product to hair behind the ears and in the nape (back of neck).
  • Rinse thoroughly after the recommended exposure time.
  • Remove the dead nits and lice with a nit comb.
  • Repeat the lotion treatment a week later or 10 days after in order to kill the young nits or surviving ones from the first application:
  • Check family members for head lice and if they have lice then all family members need to be treated at the same time.


  • Cutting the child's hair
    • Cutting the child's hair makes it easier to apply the treatment as well as use the comb.
    • It is not really necessary to shave the child's hair, which may traumatise the child
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