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Head Lice Fact Sheet (Lice)
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Head Lice Fact Sheet

Bonnie Kuehl, PhD

Lice is often misunderstood by the public, and is often erroneously associated with poor hygiene. In a recent study of Canadians, 36% of parents did not feel confident in their ability to identify lice or nits in their children’s hair, and 56% of parents felt that they would feel distraught and or embarrassed if they found that their child had lice. Below are some facts about lice that will educate you about them, and possibly save you some frustration.

Lice is in no way related to general cleanliness or poor hair hygiene

Many associate lice with poor hygiene. This often adds to or causes social stigmatization, but is simply factually false. Lice are indiscriminate in infesting hair.

Lice are transmitted as easily as the common cold

Head lice is transmitted largely through head to head contact. Any environment in which children congregate in groups, such as schools, day cares, birthday parties, or playgrounds is a potential risk of transmitting head lice. Sharing of personal items can lead to the transmission of lice. Common objects that aid transmission are headphones, hats, pillows, towels, or brushes. Adults may have lice transmitted from children. Head lice should be identified and controlled as soon as possible to prevent transmission and infestation.

Head lice are not life-threatening

Head lice do not transmit any diseases to people, and while annoying, are not considered life-threatening. Careful identification, however, is crucial in preventing a widespread infestation. Common signs of lice include persistent itchiness of the scalp. Lice and nits can be found through careful examination of the hair using a toothpick or comb. The nape of the neck, and behind the ears should also be thoroughly examined.

Shampoo and wash alone will not remove lice

If you identify lice, use proper pharmaceutical products. Frequent washing with regular shampoo will not eliminate lice. Some effective products on the market for lice removal are NixTM Creme Rinse, Kwellada-P® Creme Rinse, and R&CTM 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner.

Remember to follow treatment instructions properly. Many do not use their lice treatment products as instructed, limiting the product’s effectiveness. Note the length of time that the hair product is to be left on the hair, and adhere exactly to the specified time. Remember that some products are applied to dry hair while others are to be applied to wet hair. Nits must be removed from the hair to prevent newly hatched lice.

Lice is often transmitted to children

Head lice is quite common in schools where many children congregate. Check your child’s head regularly, especially if they are between the ages of 6 and 10. If your child has lice, start treatment immediately, and inform the school and your child’s friends to avoid transmission, and  so that others can be checked and treated.

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