Lice infestation is a common infectious disease. Lice can be transmitted through:

  • direct skin-to-skin contact.
  • by sharing personal articles such as:
    • combs
    • brushes
    • towels
    • clothing such as hats and helmets
    • bedding

Head lice are not able to survive away from humans for more than a few days. However lice can fall or crawl from a “host” to carpeting, furniture, chair backs and linens. When another person comes into contact with these items, infestation may occur.

Checking a Child for Lice

The primary symptom that a child might have lice is intense itching, but this often occurs several weeks after infestation.

You can tell there is an infestation by looking at a child’s hair. Lice can be found by inspecting the child’s scalp at the crown of the head, behind the ears, and the nape of the neck. Look for nits (eggs), and live lice.

Nits are silvery white, smaller than the head of a pin (1mm long), and shaped like teardrops. They attach firmly to the hair shaft, usually near the scalp.

Live lice are the size of a small ant, but well camouflaged and move quickly from light.

Everyday Health Checks for Lice:

  • skin rashes
  • itchy skin
  • itchy scalp
  • During a lice outbreak, a child should also be checked for nits

Special Advice for Lice Outbreaks in Group Care Settings

In the event of an outbreak:

  • If a child in your care gets lice, it is best to notify all children’s parents so they can watch for signs of infestation. Lice are highly contagious.
  • Children discovered with lice should be removed at the end of the day and may return after the first treatment.
  • Caregivers should be especially vigilant about avoiding any shared dress-up clothing and wiping out helmets and straps during outbreaks.
  • Providing space so personal items may be stored separately also helps prevent the spread of lice.
  • Children and caregivers who have been in close contact with an affected child should be examined and treated if infested.


  1. Use a non-prescription pediculicide shampoo, either pyrethrin-based or permethrin-based. When used as directed, this type of shampoo is effective, although lice treatment may not kill all the nits. By the time the nits are 1 cm from the scalp, the lice have hatched. Those close to the scalp are of greatest concern. Be aware that the shampoo is a chemical and excessive use can cause skin and eye irritation. The residue remains in the hair for several weeks. Overuse can also lead to resistance of lice to these chemicals.
  2. Use nit combs, often included with treatment packages, to remove the eggs from the hair shafts. Using these combs is a very tedious task, but is the only sure way to remove the nits so you can tell if the child who has been treated has become reinfested. You do not want to retreat children needlessly. Thorough combing is just as important as use of the shampoo.
  3. Child care providers and parents must also treat the surroundings. Linens, clothing, or toys, or personal items in direct contact with the child may be treated to rid them of lice but these items are not usually the source of infestation. To treat the environment for lice:
  4. Washable items should be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water and dried thoroughly.
  5. Items that cannot be washed should be dry cleaned or placed in airtight plastic bags for 2 weeks.

About Lice

Lice are also know as cluse or crab. They are not dangerous but they are extremely irritating. Lice are not known to carry disease. They are actually very small insects, not germs. A common myth is that lice can jump or fly. This is not true as lice are wingless.

There are several different types of infestations:

  • Pediculosis capitis: an infestation of the scalp with lice.
  • Pediculosis corporis: an infestation of the skin of the body with lice
  • Pediculosis palpebrarum: an infestation of the eyelids and eyelashes with lice

The pests that infest pets are not the same as those that infest humans. There is no spread from animals to humans, or humans to animals. The shampoos and treatments are also different.