Head lice are tiny insects that live in hair. Nits are the empty egg cases attached to hair thathead licehatch from.
Head lice are a common problem, particularly in school children aged4-11.
They're largely harmless, but can live in the hair for a long time if not treated and canbe irritating and frustrating to deal with.
This page covers:
Head licecan bedifficult to spot, even when the head is closely inspected.
They're very small whitishor grey-brown insects that range from the size of a pinhead tothe size of a sesame seed.
The only way to be sure someone has head lice is to find a live louseby combing their hair with a special fine-toothed comb. This is called detection combing.
Less reliable signs of head lice include:
Treatments to get rid of head lice are available to buy from pharmacies, supermarkets and online. You don't usually need to see your GP.
The main treatments are:
A pharmacist can advise you about thetreatments available if you're not sure which is best for you or your child.
Make sure you carefully follow the instructions that come withthe treatment you choose.
Theyclimb from one person's hair to another's.
Once detached from the hair, head lice will usually die within 12-24 hours.
It's very difficult to prevent head lice.
You may want to consider regulardetection combing for example,on a weekly basis if you're concerned about your children or yourself.
Lotions and sprays don't prevent head lice andshould only be used if a live louse has been found in your or your child's hair.
Staying off work or school and washing clothing and bedding on a hot wash is unnecessary, asit's unlikely to help prevent the spread of head lice.
Find out how to spot head lice, how to get rid of them and how they spread.
Find out how to detect head lice in your or your child's hair using a special head lice detection comb.
Find out how to get rid of head lice and nits, including what the main treatments are and how to use them.