What are head lice?
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are tiny wingless insects that may be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. They feed on human blood many times a day and live close to the human scalp.
Head lice infestation can affect anyone; however, it is more commonly seen in children. Head lice can easily spread from one person to the other, making it difficult at times to get rid of them. The infestation is often annoying because the lice bites can make the scalp itchy and irritated. Repeated scratching may lead to infection. Head lice as such are not dangerous and are not known to spread any diseases. Head lice must be treated right away to prevent the infestation from spreading.
Head lice infestation is very common in the United States. It is mostly seen in pre-school children attending childcare, elementary school children, and the household members of the affected children. An estimated 6 to 12 million head lice infestations occur each year in the United States among children between three to 11 years of age.
How do people get head lice?
Head lice are easily transmitted from person to person. Being wingless, head lice cannot hop or fly. They move by crawling and spread by direct contact with the head of the hair of an infected person. Coming in head-to-head contact with a person carrying head lice poses the greatest risk of transmission. Head lice can also spread by sharing or coming in contact with personal items, such as clothing (caps/hats, scarves, coats, etc.), combs, hairbrushes, hair bands, or towels, used by an infected person. They may also spread by lying on a bed, couch, pillow, or carpet that recently has been in contact with an infected person.Head lice are not spread by pets, including dogs and cats. Having head lice is not a sign of poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness. The lice survive on blood and can infest anyone whether clean or dirty.
How would I know if I have head lice?
The surest way to know that you have a head lice infestation is by finding a live nymph (an immature louse) or adult louse on your scalp or hair. Using a magnifying lens and a fine-toothed comb may help to find live lice. If you cannot find crawling lice, you may look for the nits (tiny lice eggs) firmly attached within one-fourth of an inch from the base of the hair.
If you are unsure whether you have a head lice infestation, you may take the help of a healthcare provider or other person trained to identify live head lice.
The typical signs and symptoms of head lice infestation are:
- Tickling feeling as if something is moving in the hair.
- Itching caused by allergic reactions due to the head lice bites.
- Irritability and difficulty sleeping since the head lice avoid light and are most active in the dark.
- Sores or small red bumps on the scalp, forehead, neck, and shoulders caused by scratching.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Head Lice: Where Do They Come From? Related Articles
Bedbugs (Bed Bugs) vs. LiceBedbugs are small blood-sucking parasites that feed on mammals and birds. Some people do not have any symptoms of bedbug bites while others have them they include pain and reddish-colored skin lesions where the bite is. Bedbugs are found in temperate and tropical climates worldwide. Bedbugs usually feed every five to 10 days. Bedbug bites usually do not need treatment. Bedbug infestations are difficult to get rid of. Bedbugs are a problem worldwide, are resurging.
There are three types of lice, head, body, and pubic. Head lice is a grey-white animal about the size of a sesame seed and can be mistaken for dandruff. Head lice are transmitted from the body to other household items. They produce between seven to 10 eggs (nits) annually. Head lice is transferred from head-to-head contact. Body lice are slightly bigger than head lice and look like head lice. Body lice is transferred from human to other household items. Pubic lice or "crabs" is distinctly different from the head and body louse. Pubic lice in adults is transferred by direct sexual contact. Children and others get pubic lice via nonsexual transmission from their parents, relatives, and friends who share clothing. Lice bites are bluish in color sore that develop on different areas of the body. Condoms do not prevent from getting pubic lice. The different types of lice have different treatment. Lice can be eradicated from your home.
Crabs (Pubic Lice) PictureParasitic insects found in the genital area of humans. See a picture of Crabs (Pubic Lice) and learn more about the health topic.
Head LiceHead lice infection is called pediculosis. Lice are parasites that feed on blood and can be found on the scalp and hair of infected people. Signs and symptoms of head lice infestation include a tickling sensation, itching, and sores on the head. Head lice may be eliminated with various over-the-counter shampoos and washing all clothing and bed linens in the hot water cycle. Combs and brushes should be disinfected, and the floor and furniture should be vacuumed.
Head Lice SlideshowLearn how to get rid of head lice. Lice attach themselves to the scalp and feed off of human blood. Discover head lice symptoms and learn what head lice look like for effective head lice treatment.
Head Lice vs. DandruffDandruff is a condition that causes dry flakes on the scalp. Lice are parasites. Head lice infestations are very contagious. Both head lice and dandruff have similar signs and symptoms: scalp itching and tiny white material on the hair shafts. Lice treatment involves the application of over-the-counter shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrethrin followed by nit and louse removal with a fine-toothed comb. Dandruff treatment incorporates the use of anti-dandruff shampoo.
How Do You Get Rid of Lice Fast?Learn what medical treatments can help with lice and speed up your lice recovery.
Lice vs Dandruff: How Will You Tell the Difference?Lice and dandruff are two things that have been confused with each other for a long time. However, they are very different. They have different causes, risk factors, appearance, location and treatment.
Lice vs. FleasLice and fleas are small wingless insects. Lice are parasites that can crawl and infest the human skin and scalp. Although they can bite people, fleas are parasites that mainly feed on non-human hosts and can jump from one host to another. Lice infestations and fleabites are treatable and typically do not cause long-term problems with proper treatments for home, people, and pets.
Pubic Lice (Crabs)Pubic lice (crabs) are parasitic insects found in the genital area, and are primarily spread through sexual contact. Symptoms of crabs include itching and visible nits (lice eggs) and crawling lice. Treatment includes using lice-killing shampoo and washing bedding and clothing in hot water.