Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp and lay eggs, or nits, in the hair. They are parasites that feed on blood. Lice bites cause uncomfortable itching but won’t spread disease. When lice multiply into an infestation, treatment is needed. Lice are most common in younger children.

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What causes head lice?

Having lice is not caused by bad hygiene or a dirty home. Head lice spread through direct contact with another person who has lice. Lice also spread through items that have had contact with hair that is infested. Lice cannot jump.

What are symptoms of head lice?

Head lice are tiny—as small as a sesame seed—and are hard to see. Watch for these signs of infestation:

  • Frequent head scratching
  • Small red bumps on the scalp or neck
  • Lice eggs shaped like small, hard ovals in hair
  • Increased itching at night (lice avoid light)

How are head lice treated?

Treatment is needed to stop a lice infestation. Both over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available. A nit comb can be used to remove lice eggs and dead lice. A healthcare provider can consult you on the best lice treatment.

A shampoo, cream rinse or lotion can be applied to the scalp. The active ingredients can be dangerous if not used correctly. Be sure you:

  • Do not use extra amounts of any treatment, including shampoo, without approval
  • If a treatment gets in your eyes, flush your eyes immediately
  • Do not re-treat if lice still seem active; consult a healthcare provider for alternative treatments

Consult a healthcare provider before using any treatment if:

  • You find lice on an infant
  • You have lice in your eyelashes or eyebrows
  • You are pregnant or nursing
  • You have allergies or asthma

If you suspect you or a child has a lice infestation, consult a healthcare provider for treatment options and visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic. You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.

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