Head lice are small parasitic insects found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice require human blood to live and reproduce, and so live close to the human scalp. Head lice do not carry disease, but they can cause itching and discomfort.
Adult head lice are 1/10 to 1/8 of an inch long and tan to grayish-white in color. Lice eggs, or nits are oval yellow , white or brown ovals attached to individual hair strands about 1/2 inch from the scalp. Head lice and nits are almost always found on the scalp, especially around and behind the ears and near the hairline at the back of the head. They are sometimes found on the eyelashes or eyebrows.
Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. It is possible, but uncommon, for lice to spread by contact with clothing or personal items such as combs or towels used by an infested person. Head lice cannot be spread by pets.
While anyone can be infested with head lice, they are most common among children attending child care or elementary school, and among the household members of infested children.
Shampooing does not remove lice or nits. Lice can be removed by hand with a special comb, or by using a product approved for killing lice and/or their eggs. Always follow manufacturer's directions when a lice treatment.
Head lice do not carry disease, and are not considered a public health threat. Cases of head lice do not need to be reported to the state or county health department. Informing your school, parents of classmates, and others about contact with head lice is helpful.
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