Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Kids
A louse is a parasite (say: PAR-uh-site), which means it feeds off of other living things. Lice (the word for more than one louse) are about the size of a sesame seed, and are tan to gray in color. Lice need to suck a tiny bit of blood to survive, and they sometimes live on people’s heads and lay eggs in the hair, on the back of the neck, or behind the ears.
It’s very easy for a person with lice to give it to someone else when they come into close head-to-head contact with each other. Sometimes, lice can be transmitted by friends sharing things that have touched the hair, such as combs, brushes, hats, and headphones. Lice cannot jump or fly, so a person can’t catch lice by simply sitting near someone who has lice.
If a person gets lice, it doesn’t feel like anything at first. A louse lays tiny, oval eggs called nits. They are yellow, tan, or brown before the lice hatch. After the lice hatch, nits appear clear or white. They look a little like dandruff flakes but they can’t be shaken off.
The lice mature within 1 to 2 weeks and begin feeding on the scalp and attaching their tiny claws to a person’s hair. Louse bites are very itchy, and can get red when scratched. A lot of scratching can lead to open sores and infected skin.
If your head is very itchy, tell an adult immediately. Getting lice has nothing to do with being dirty, and it’s very common among kids who are in school together. It is something that will need to be cleared up as soon as possible.
Doctors treat people who have lice by giving them a prescription for a medicated shampoo, cream, or lotion that kills lice, or instructing that they buy one of these at a store.
An adult will need to use a fine-toothed comb to get rid of the existing nits and follow the instructions for putting the medication in your hair to kill the lice. It’s not a good a idea to use a hairdryer to dry a person’s hair after using the medication, as some medicines contain flammable ingredients (which means they can catch on fire and burn easily).
It may take a few days for the itching to stop, and the treatment may need to be repeated in 7 to 10 days to make sure any surviving lice are killed before they produce new eggs.
Sometimes, adults choose to skip the medicated shampoo and only use a fine-toothed comb to remove the lice and nits from the hair. They’ll need to do this many times (every few days) to make sure to get everything out. But as long as the adult and the kid both have the patience to do this (maybe read a good book while it’s being done), it works just as well.
Because they need to feed a few times a day, lice can‘t live more than a day or two off of a person’s head. To be on the safe side, your parents may:
But the most important thing is to check the heads of everyone who lives in the house for lice.
It can be hard to avoid lice completely, but there are things you can do to protect yourself:
Lice are tiny insects that live in a person’s hair. Find out more in this article for kids.
A gnat is a very tiny insect, no bigger than the head of a pin. Learn more about gnats.
A flea is a small (no bigger than the head of a pin) brown bug with a hard shell. Learn more about fleas and how they affect you in this fun article just for kids.
A bedbug is a small, flat, reddish-brown bug that can be found in homes all over the world. Learn more about bedbugs.
Chiggers are a tiny red type of mite. Learn more about itchy chiggers in this article.
Learn about rashes in a flash. Check out our article just for kids!
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.