Some facts about head lice:

  • Head lice (or nits) are small insects that breed and feed on the human scalp
  • Head lice have been around for millions of years
  • They do not carry or transmit disease
  • Head lice cannot fly or jump, they can only crawl
  • Direct contact is required for transmission
  • Head lice are common among children
  • Itching is not a reliable indication
  • Head lice eggs are oval and the size of a pinhead
  • Adult head lice are 2-3mm
  • There is no evidence to suggest nits are attracted to either clean or dirty hair

How to check for head lice

There are 5 easy steps to check for head lice.

Step 1: Comb conditioner into dry, untangled hair.

Step 2: Use a head lice comb to run conditioner through the hair.

Step 3: Wipe the comb onto a piece of paper towel.

Step 4: Check the paper towel and comb for head lice and eggs.

Step 5: Repeat combing for all sections of the head.

How to treat head lice

The aim is to kill the head lice and the eggs.

Option 1 : Continue with the conditioner and comb method every second day until there’s no sign of live lice for 10 days. Eggs hatch so be sure to repeat.

Option 2 : If you choose an insecticide product, make sure it has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use. (AUST R or AUST L number on the packaging)

Do not use an insecticide product:

  • If you are pregnant/breast feeding
  • In children less than 12 months old
  • If you have allergies, open wounds, or asthma

When using an insecticide:

  • If it’s a lotion product the hair should be dry
  • If it’s a shampoo, then the hair should be wet
  • It’s important to follow the product instructions
  • After treatment, use the head lice comb to remove dead eggs and head lice
  • This will also help to see if the treatment has been successful
  • No insecticide kills 100% of the eggs the first-time round so repeat the process 7 days later
  • If the head lice are still alive it’s possible they are resistant to that particular insecticide
  • Revert to the combing method or talk to your pharmacist or doctor to try another product

Preventing head lice

  • There are no products currently available that prevent head lice
  • Tie long hair back and check regularly
  • Avoid using other people’s combs and brushes

Last Reviewed: 24/07/2019

myDr