Head Lice

Head lice are tiny insects that live in hair. They are common in children. Head lice are harmless, but if not treated they can be irritating and frustrating to deal with. Nits is a word used to describe the empty egg cases attached to hair that head lice hatch from.

What are the symptoms of head lice?

Head lice lay small white eggs or nits (egg cases) in the hair, often behind the ears or at the back of the neck. This can cause an itchy head and a rash on the back of the neck.

What do head lice look like?

Head lice are very small white, grey or brown insects. They can be difficult to see even when looking closely. It is often the white eggs in the hair that can be seen.

Lice close up AS.517292408.jpegLice in hair AS.280821010.jpg

How to treat head lice and nits?

Head lice and nits can usually be removed from the hair by combing wet hair regularly with a special fine toothed comb (nit comb) which you can buy from a pharmacy or supermarket. Usually, you do not need to see a doctor.

How to wet comb hair:

Nits and lice AS.122689520.jpegWash hair as normal and apply lots of conditioner. Comb the hair using the fine toothed comb from roots to ends for up to 30 minutes depending on your hair type. You will need to repeat this every 4 days for at least 2 weeks to remove any newly hatched eggs. If wet combing has not worked and you can still see head lice or nits, you can use a treatment spray or lotion. Your pharmacist or doctor can advise you on the best treatment. Always check the pack to see if the treatment is ok for you or your child and follow the instructions on how to safely use these.

You cannot prevent head lice:

There's nothing you can do to prevent head lice.

You can help stop them spreading by wet combing regularly to catch them early.

For further information on wet combing and treatments, please visit the NHS website.

Where to get treatment from?

Safe and effective treatment for head lice is available to buy from pharmacies. If you live in Calderdale, Kirklees (postcodes HD1 or HD2) or Leeds, and do not pay for your prescriptions you can get the treatment and comb for free from your local pharmacy via the Minor Ailments Scheme. If you need to access free treatment for a child who is not with you, you will need to provide their details and bring proof of their head lice. The easiest way to do this is to stick the head lice to a piece of Sellotape and bring it to show the pharmacist.

What should I do at home?

You may wish to wash your bedding and towels on the same day you start the head lice treatment. Check other family members hair frequently for signs of head lice as they spread easily. They may need to wet comb too. Cleaning more than normal is not needed.

How do I stop the spread?

It is very difficult to stop someone catching head lice although regular wet combing can catch any head lice early. Lotions and sprays do not prevent head lice and should only be used if lice has been found in hair. You do not need to keep your child off school if they have head lice.

Information provided by Leeds City Council with permission.