Head Lice – Facts and Info

A particularly annoying and frequently misunderstood problem is head lice.  All students, regardless of home conditions, are susceptible to head lice.  While they are a nuisance, there is no health risk associated with an infestation of lice or their nits.   However, it is district policy that students with live lice will be excluded from school until it is confirmed that there are no more live lice. Please notify the office and your child’s teacher when this problem occurs.  Beaverton School District Head Lice Policy

Here is some helpful information about lice and their nits:

Kids Health – Lice Info

CDC – Head Lice Info

-Lice do not discriminate based on socioeconomic status.

-Lice like clean hair more than dirty hair.

-There are more than 12 million reported cases of lice in the US every year and it is estimated that 1 in 4 children will get lice sometime in their life.

-Lice are tiny little wingless parasites that crawl very quickly. They are only about 2mm-4mm in size. Lice are not able to fly, hop or jump from person to person.

-Lice are blood-sucking parasites. They need a human host to survive. Once off of their human host, they will only survive for 24-72 hours.

-People get lice from close human contact and from sharing personal items with an infected person.

-Nits are not contagious. Nits can only be laid by lice.

-You can’t get head lice from pets.

-Lice bites may cause itching and inflammation and can become infected if not treated.

-You must manually remove, either by combing or nit-picking, every louse and nit off the head.  Leaving even one viable nit on the head will create another infestation.  Manual removal is the only guaranteed way to get rid of a head lice infestation.

-Head lice can cause itching and scratching, however only 60% of people actually itch.  The itching comes from an allergy to the saliva in the lice bites. Lice particularly love the scalp, behind the ears and the nape of the neck, but they love hair so can be found anywhere on the head.

-Head lice are specific to the human head and need a human host to survive.  They will not travel to other parts of your body.  They are head lice.  They will not survive on the family cat or dog.

-You can often see the lice eggs, commonly referred to  as nits, on the hair shaft. They look like tiny white little grains of sand and can often be mistaken for dandruff.  Your focus should be on the manual removal of all lice and nits from the head.  While some of those nits may be non viable, trying to determine the viability of every nit on the head without examination under a microscope can be very challenging and your time is better spent focusing on 100% removal of everything on the head.  This is really the only guaranteed way to get rid of a head lice infestation.

-People often mistake dry scalp or dandruff for nits.  One key difference is dandruff flakes off whereas nits literally stick to the hair shaft and will not move if you blow on them. Things like hair product residue and food can also stick to the hair shaft and do not move. Remember:  Nits are  only laid on one side of the hair shaft and have a very distinctive teardrop shape.

-When checking a head, chances are you will not see the lice because they are very fast moving. You will however see the nits and that is what you should be looking for to determine if you have an infestation.  While it is most common for eggs to be laid 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the scalp, in warmer weather eggs are commonly laid anywhere on the hairshaft.  This is because lice move more freely around the head in warmer weather. This is why people often think Spring is lice season.  There is no such thing as a lice season.  Lice are a year-round problem, they are just more easily spotted in warmer weather.