Skip to main content

Hayley Matthews PA-C


Head lice, or Pediculosis Capitis, is a tiny wingless and bloodsucking insect. Lice is highly contagious especially in schools and day care centers. It can also occur when people are living in close quarters, such as nursing homes or military barracks. Lice can live on a person for 30 days without treatment but can only live one day without a host (person to live on). Lice eggs, known as nits, usually hatch within one week.

What are the symptoms?

Extreme scalp itching, or you may even feel some tickling from the hair movement caused by the lice. The best way to know if you have lice is to have someone look. Using a fine-tooth comb, slowly comb through the hair. Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and are most commonly found at the nape of the neck or near the ears. 

How do I get lice?

Lice is spread from one person to another by close contact. It can also be spread by sharing bed sheets, hats, combs/brushes, or clothes.

Remember there is no connection between head lice and poor hygiene.

What to do

Make sure to check everyone in the household for lice. This can be done using a fine-tooth comb, and slowly combing through the hair in small sections looking for lice or nits. Remember, dandruff is easily brushed off the hair, whereas nits tend to stick to the hair follicles making them harder to remove.

Most cases of lice respond to over-the-counter shampoo products, such as NIX. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package. This treatment should be repeated in 1-2 weeks.  After using the shampoo, use a fine-tooth comb and comb through the wet hair to remove any dead lice or nits.

Make sure to wash all bedding, clothes, stuffed animals, etc in hot soapy water, and dry these items in high heat as well. If you have items that are not able to go in the washer, seal them in an airtight container for 2 weeks. Don’t forget to vacuum the floors and couches. 

If over-the-counter treatments do not work, or if you are unsure talk with your doctor. You doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and provide prescription strength shampoos or in some cases prescription medications taken by mouth.