Fact Sheets : Head Lice Infestation

Every year, head lice (or pediculosis) infest millions of children in North America. Children are especially susceptible because of their close contact in day cares and schools. It is not surprising then, that the highest rate of infection occurs in September and October, as they return to school.

Here are some common myths about head lice and the real facts:
 

Myth: The presence of lice is a sign of poor personal hygiene.
Fact: Actually, head lice seem to prefer a clean scalp; and otherwise show no particular preference for a human host's sex, race, age or socio-economic status.

Myth: Only children are susceptible.
Fact: Lice show no preference for children over adults. However, infestation is more common among children between 3 and 10 years because of their tendency to be in close contact with others, especially at school.

Myth: Long hair encourages infestation.
Fact: Since head lice are only interested in the immediate area of the scalp, cutting the hair will neither prevent nor alleviate infestation.

Myth: Lice can be contracted from plants, animals and pets.
Fact: Humans are the only hosts head lice survive on. Head lice cannot live on animals, pets or plants.

Myth: Lice can jump and fly from one person to another.
Fact: Head lice have no wings, they can only crawl - so transmission comes only from direct contact with other infested people or their belongings. Indirect transmission can occur through sharing personal articles that come in contact with the scalp, such as hats, scarves, hair accessories, headgear, headphones etc.


Lice infestation treatment:

There are three aspects:

  1. An appropriate shampoo rinse or cream used as directed
  2. Combing through the hair to remove nits and lice after treatment
  3. Disinfecting items that may have come in contact with the infested child's head