Back-To-School Time #2: What to Know About Head Lice

Published on Aug 27, 2018 at 11:32a.m.

Head lice, also known as pediculosis capitis, are small insects that infest the scalp in order to survive.  Their survival depends on drawing blood from the scalp for nutrition.  Head lice are small & tan in color, less than 1/8 inches long, crawl, but do not jump and can cause irritation of the scalp and neck areas.  Head lice deposit tiny gray & white eggs called nits on the hair shaft.  The warmth from the scalp assists survival and hatching.  They can only live 1 to 2 days away from the scalp.  Also, head lice infestation can happen to anyone and their presence is not directly related to socio-economic conditions or poor hygiene.

The signs and symptoms of head lice are as follows:

  • Itching of the skin where the lice feed around the scalp and neck areas
  • Nits may become glued or stuck to the hair behind the ears and neck
  • Scratching around the ears and neck
  • Open sores and crusting that may be present from secondary bacterial infections related to swollen glands or lymph nodes

Head lice incubate in a 6 to 10 day period from laying to hatching of the eggs.  Lice can reproduce 2 to 3 weeks after hatching.  The contagious period is present until the lice & eggs are destroyed. 

These lice and eggs can be controlled and/or destroyed by doing the following:

  • Using pesticides manufactured specifically to destroy lice and viable eggs
  • Mechanical removal by a fine comb (very tedious and not fully effective)
  • Shaving the scalp or cutting hair very short (could be traumatic for children)

To help prevent head lice, children should be encouraged not to share headgear, hats, towels or bedding.Other preventative measures include pre-soaking combs or brushes in a disinfectant solution,as per directions on solution.You can also store each child’s clothing separate, in plastic bags or plastic containers to keep the lice from crawling from one item to another.

For more information on head lice, please go to the following websites:                

If you have any questions, please contact the Teaneck Public Health Nurse at:  (201) 227-6251.

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