Head Lice and Nits - Prevention

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 24 Aug 2016

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Laurence Knott, 24 Aug 2016

What about school?

Children with head lice should carry on going to school. You need close head-to-head contact to pass lice on to others. Young children who play closely together may pass lice on. If your child has head lice, a common-sense approach is to tell the parents of their close friends to look out for lice in their children.

Schools have a responsibility to give regular advice about head lice. School nurses no longer do regular nit combing.

Can head lice be prevented?

There is no good way of preventing head lice. Lice repellent sprays do not work very well. If you do detection combing of children's hair every week or so, you will detect head lice soon after they have affected the hair. You can then start treatment quickly and reduce the risk of passing them on to others.

Do family and friends need treatment?

Only if they have head lice. All people who live in the same home and other close head-to-head contacts of the previous 4-6 weeks should be advised to look for lice. These people should only be treated if live head lice are found. They do not need "in case" treatment. All people with head lice in the same house should be treated at the same time. This stops lice being passed around again.

Some other points about head lice

  • Use an anti-lice treatment only when you are sure that you have, or your child has, head lice. Do not use them to prevent head lice.
  • A common reason for head lice to come back in one person is because family and close friends are not checked for head lice. The treated person may then get head lice back again from untreated family or friends.
  • After treatment and when the lice have gone, it may take 2-3 weeks for the itch to go fully.
  • Nits may remain after lice have gone. They are empty eggshells and stick strongly to hair. They will eventually fall out. If you prefer, a fine-toothed 'nit comb' can remove them.

Further reading and references

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