Where do Head Lice Come From?

Your child comes home itching and scratching their head, so you look and find head lice. Yikes! One of the first things you may wonder is, where did the lice come from? How is it even possible my family has an infestation?

Two kids smiling.

Head lice have been pestering humans for thousands of years. They are even found preserved with mummies. If you are interested in the scientific history of head lice, Scientific American has a fascinating blog post called “Of lice and men: an itchy history”.

Most of us are less concerned about the evolution of head lice. We are more concerned about where they came from today. The answer is that they very likely came from contact with another person who has head lice.

Lice Facts

Lice do not fly or jump, but they will crawl very fast. They have legs that cling to strands of hair so they can move from one head to another. Have you watched how children interact with each other? Sitting or playing with their heads closely together, it is easy for lice to move from one host to another. Parents may contract lice while hugging their child. They can pass from one person to another while sleeping in the same bed.

Lice prefer a warm, dark environment. They won’t stay at the ends of your hair but will move close to the scalp where they can feed and lay eggs.

Head lice can transfer through shared items that come in contact with hair such as brushes and hats. Head lice cannot live longer than about 36 hours without feeding. They will move to a human host as quickly as possible if they are still attached to a hair strand left behind.

Unlike fleas, you won’t get head lice from pets. Lice are host-specific, so any louse that is living on your furry friend is not interested in you. In addition, your head lice won’t want to feed on pets either.

Why can’t we permanently get rid of lice?

Unfortunately, there are people who have trouble getting rid of their infestation. They may be using traditional products that don’t work against lice, commonly referred to now as “super lice”. For some families, treating head lice can feel overwhelming or financially draining so they choose not to treat their infestation.  Thankfully there are now easy-to-use, affordable, over-the-counter solutions that are effective at killing head lice such as Licefreee!.

You can take some steps to help prevent a lice infestation in your home. Check out our head lice prevention tips.


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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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