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Head Lice and your Child

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Head Lice




 head lice




What is Head Lice?



Head lice are an insect that lives in hair and sucks blood from the scalp. They are a nuisance because they can cause itching of the scalp, but they don’t cause disease or illness (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).


Female head lice can lay their eggs and glue them to the base of a hair shaft. The eggs are pale in colour and hatch after 7-10 days. The immature lice grow into adults over 6-10 days and start biting the scalp to feed on blood. Adult lice mate, the females lay more eggs and the cycle begins again (Downs, 2004).







How does Head Lice spread?


Head lice can only spread from one person to another by direct head-to-head contact – the lice cannot jump or fly. Head lice do not live on animals, bedding, furniture, carpet, clothes or soft toys. They cannot also spread by sharing hats (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).


Incubation Period


Head lice eggs take 7-10 days to hatch, and adult lice can lay new eggs after another 6-10 days. The lice in a person’s hair can be at various stages of their life cycle, so new eggs can be laid and new lice can hatch continuously (Downs, 2004).



Infectious Period


As long as the eggs are alive, they can spread to other people by direct head-to-head contact (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).




Adult lice can be difficult to see and the key is to look for eggs by shining a strong light on the hair near the scalp.

Below I have outlined 6 conditioning and combing techniques as identified in the Queensland Health document ( on dealing with head lice:


  1. Untangle Hair.
  2. Apply Hair Conditioner to dry hair. Use enough conditioner to cover the whole scalp and all the hair from roots to tips.
  3. Use an ordinary comb to evenly distribute the conditioner, and divide the hair into 4 or more sections using hair clips.
  4. Starting with a section at the back of the head, place the teeth of a head lice comb flat against the scalp. Comb the hair from the roots to the tips.
  5. Wipe the comb clean on a tissue after each stroke and check for lice or eggs on the tissue
  6. Comb each section twice until you have combed the whole head.














Source for Head Lioe image: 


Downs A.M: Managing head lice in an era of increasing resistance to insecticides. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2004;5(3):169-77


National Health and Medical Research Council (2012). Staying Healthy: Preventing diseases in early childhood education and care services 5th Edn. NHMRC, Canberra.


Queensland Health:

Read 3662 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 September 2015 11:16

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