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Don’t bug out:


When you encounter head lice for the first time, it makes sense to have a lot of questions.

These answers may help you focus on what you need to do and what you don’t need to worry about.


Sklice Don't Bug Out Imagery

What are head lice? What do lice look like?

Head lice are 6-legged, grayish-white insects about the size of a sesame seed. They’re parasites that live on the human head and feed on blood. Visit the Head Lice Image Gallery.


Should I call my healthcare provider if I suspect head lice?

If you think your child has head lice, consider talking with your healthcare provider to confirm the diagnosis and get advice on appropriate treatment options.


What are nits?

Nits are head lice eggs. Female lice lay nits on hair shafts and a cement-like substance holds them in place. They take about 8 to 9 days to hatch. Once nits hatch, they leave their shells behind. These shells are also called nits. You can see why nits are sometimes misidentified as dandruff.


How can you tell if you have head lice?

Though the most common head lice symptom is an itchy scalp, only people who are allergic to head lice saliva experience this. Some people feel a tickling sensation, as if something is moving in their hair. Others may have difficulty sleeping, as lice are most active in the dark. To see what head lice look like, visit our Head Lice Image Gallery. And remember, receiving a diagnosis from a healthcare professional is important.


How do I check my child for head lice and nits?

You may want to start by checking behind your child’s ears and/or at the back of their neck, but lice and nits can also be elsewhere on the scalp and in the hair. If you spot even a single louse, your child has an infestation and needs to be treated for head lice. Learn more about how to check for head lice.


How can I tell if it’s head lice or dandruff?

Sometimes a head lice nit (egg) may be mistaken for dandruff because of its size and color. While dandruff can easily be plucked off the hair shaft with your fingers, a nit will stay put. See pictures of head lice nits vs dandruff.


How does someone get head lice?

Head lice typically spread through head-to-head contact with an infested person. It's also possible to get head lice by using an infested person’s comb, brush, hat, scarf, bandana, hair band, etc—basically anything they put on their head. Lice don’t jump, hop, or fly from person to person; they travel through direct contact.


Can selfies spread head lice?

Any head-to-head contact with an infested person can spread head lice. Remember, head lice crawl quickly, so even brief contact gives them enough time to move from one person to another.


What about head lice and pets?

Head lice do not infest pets, and pets do not spread head lice.


Do head lice fly or jump from person to person?

Head lice cannot fly (they don’t have wings) or jump. They crawl very quickly. They can also be projected from the head as a result of static buildup from brushing dry hair.


What’s the life cycle of a head louse?

An adult female louse lays an egg (called a nit) on a hair shaft. The head lice incubation period is about 8 or 9 days, at which point the nit hatches, and a nymph emerges. The nymph becomes an adult louse in about 7 days. The adult louse can live as long as 30 days on its human host. To learn more about the head louse life cycle, visit our Head Lice Image Gallery.


How long can head lice live in a mattress, pillowcase, or other bedding?

Head lice can typically live only about 2 days away from a human host, because they need blood as a food source to survive.


Should I use an insect spray to treat furniture, rugs, or anything else that may have come in contact with an infested head?

Do not use pest sprays or fogs in the house. They are not needed and can be harmful if they’re inhaled or get on the skin. Here’s what you can do: identify items used by anyone who has head lice, such as pillows, bedding, towels, hats, helmets, scarves, clothes, and stuffed animals. Machine-wash appropriate items in hot water, and tumble-dry on high heat for 20 minutes. If an item can’t be washed, seal it in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. Make sure you talk with your doctor about head lice treatment.


Does Lysol® kill lice?

Lysol will not kill lice. The best way to kill lice that may still be living on a child’s belongings is to gather the affected items and wash them in hot water. If items cannot be washed, seal them in a plastic bag for at least 2 weeks. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about the best head lice treatment and head lice removal process to avoid reinfestation.


Who gets head lice?

Head lice infest children and adults from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter how clean your hair or home is or where you live, go to school, or play. Head lice most commonly spread through direct, head-to-head contact with someone who has them.


Do head lice transmit diseases?

Head lice do not transmit diseases, though scratching may increase the possibility of secondary skin infections.


Do home remedies get rid of head lice?

There's no clear scientific evidence that says home remedies work. The last thing you want to do is let head lice linger. So it may be best to consult your healthcare provider for a treatment recommendation.


Does chlorine (from a swimming pool) kill head lice?

Chlorine does not kill head lice. In fact, head lice can hold their breath for several hours. To treat head lice effectively, talk with your healthcare provider about appropriate treatment options. Your healthcare provider may recommend an over-the counter head lice treatment.

If your healthcare provider confirms head lice, ask about Sklice Lotion—an over-the-counter, 10-minute treatment for head lice that is safe on children as young as 6 months old.