Head Lice: A Common Health Condition

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Head Lice: A Common Health Condition


Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the human scalp and feed on blood. They are a common problem, particularly among children, and are easily spread through close contact. While they can be a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease.


The most common symptom of head lice is itching on the scalp, neck, and ears. This is an allergic reaction to louse bites. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair
  • Lice on scalp
  • Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts
  • Sores on the scalp, neck, and shoulders (from scratching)


Head lice spread through direct contact with the hair of an infected person. They cannot jump or fly, and they do not live on pets or other animals.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get head lice, but the following factors may increase your risk:

  • Being in close contact with someone who has head lice
  • Sharing personal items (such as hats, brushes, and towels) with someone who has head lice
  • Living in crowded conditions


Head lice are usually diagnosed by finding a live louse or a nit (egg) on the scalp. A magnifying glass may be used to help see the lice and nits.


Several over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat head lice. These medications usually kill the lice and nits, but it is important to follow the directions carefully. It is also important to treat all household members who have head lice to prevent reinfestation.

In addition to medication, the following steps can help to get rid of head lice and nits:

  • Comb wet hair with a fine-toothed comb to remove nits.
  • Wash all bedding, clothing, and towels in hot water and dry them on high heat.
  • Vacuum carpets and furniture.
  • Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 5-10 minutes.


The following tips can help to prevent the spread of head lice:

  • Avoid head-to-head contact with people who have head lice.
  • Do not share personal items with people who have head lice.
  • Teach children to avoid head-to-head contact with other children.


Head lice are a common and treatable condition. With prompt treatment and preventive measures, head lice can be effectively managed.

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