Head Lice: Are they contagious and How to deal with them?

A group of school kids in a huddle outdoors, back view.

You have an itchy, scaly scalp and you find eggshell-colored nits in your hair. If so, chances are you or someone you know is dealing with head lice. But not everyone who has lice suffers from these symptoms. That's why we need to arm ourselves with information about lice.

The mention of the term "head lice" makes most of us cringe. Head lice can be a terrible and persistent problem. You never know when they'll show up in your hair. And you may live in fear of catching them from someone somewhere. But are head lice contagious? How are we going to deal with them? Well, let us find out!

All about head lice

It's normal for people to be afraid of head lice. Who isn't? But, there is a lot of false information about them, like "head lice are infectious," that needs to be debunked because it leads to misinformation that causes people to be afraid. 

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live on the scalp and feed on human blood. The most common symptoms of head lice are itching and tiny white specks found in the hair. The specks are lice eggs, also called "nits." But these little pests are not a reason to throw your hands up in despair. There are ways to check yourself or others to see if they have head lice. They are annoying, but the battle between you and head lice can be won with some knowledge.

Head lice can't fly or jump from person to person, and they can't survive more than two days on non-human surfaces. Instead, they are most often transmitted from person to person. They crawl from one head to the other, which means the only way for someone to get lice is through close contact with an infected person's hair. This is why school children who have more possibilities to share personal things like combs or brushes with an infected person are more prone to having lice.

So, are head lice contagious?

The short answer is yes. But unlike many diseases or illnesses, you don't catch head lice by sneezing or coughing. In the worst-case scenario, head lice bites can cause infection from scratching that may lead to complications. So if you have red and tender skin on your scalp, crusting and oozing of the scalp, and swollen lymph glands, consult a doctor for proper treatment.

Head lice are highly contagious. They spread quickly from one person to another. Before getting infected, this typically means you need to be in physical contact, like hugging or playing with someone who has head lice. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year among children aged 3 to 11 in the United States.

Easy prevention tips

Given that head lice are contagious, it is always better to prevent a person with lice from spreading them than to deal with an infestation. Here are five easy ways to remember to avoid lice infestation:

  1. Don't share hats, scarves, combs, brushes, pillows, or other personal items.
  2. Wash bedding weekly in hot water (130°F) and use a high drying cycle for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Soak brushes and combs in rubbing alcohol for one hour. 
  4. Keep your hair tied back to avoid head-to-head contact during activities like playing sports.
  5. Vacuum floors and furniture, including carpets and mattresses where lice may have fallen off the scalp or clothing, then throw away the vacuum cleaner bag. 
  6. Use an anti-lice spray to eliminate head lice in your furniture or other inanimate objects in your home.

How to deal with head lice?

Dealing with head lice is a stressful experience. Apart from discomfort, being infested is embarrassing, and spreading the infestation to others is a concern.

You know that head lice are not contagious like a disease or illness. So, here are some ways for dealing with head lice:

  1. Non-toxic way

    1.1 LiceFreee products kill lice and nits, and  nit combs can remove nits (eggs) from hair. It is a safe, effective, and non-toxic way in dealing with head lice. They are  the best alternative to traditional head lice products that contain pesticides.
  1. Toxic way
    1. Over-the-Counter Treatments (OTC) with chemicals
      • Some OTC products that are available in the market are cheaper than prescription products but have a low success rate in treating head lice.
      • OTCs contain chemicals called pyrethrins (these agents interfere with the head lice nervous system).
      • Some OTC products may also have side effects such as skin rashes so be careful in choosing OTC products that are safe and non-toxic.
    2. Prescription medications
      • This is usually done when OTC treatments are not working well due to improper use.
      • These are usually more effective than over-the-counter remedies, but some head lice have become resistant to these medications.

Reminder when dealing with head lice

When using medications, NEVER use a hairdryer after applying scalp treatments. Some lice treatments include flammable ingredients and may cause a fire.

Medicated treatments don't remove all the lice and nits. So, the manual removal of nits and lice by hand may be recommended by your doctor besides chemical treatments. It is also essential to treat everyone in the household for head lice, even if only one person has them. 

You might also have heard that some people use oil and other substances as smothering agents, like soaking hair in vinegar before shampooing it with a nit comb, petroleum jelly, and mayonnaise. But these methods are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and might cause skin infection.

Just a tip in dealing with head lice

Since 1999, Licefreee has continuously produced and improved  anti-lice products that are safe, effective, and non-toxic. We don't want to use pesticides on our family members or ourselves if we deal with head lice. To keep  head lice from infecting you and your loved ones, shop now


©2024 TecLabs
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, medical evidence not accepted. Not evaluated by the FDA.
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