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frequently asked questions

Who can get head lice & how do they spread

a Yes. Unlike illnesses such as the cold, flu or strep throat, head lice are not a bacteria or virus, they are not airborne, nor are they spread by casual contact such as shaking hands. Head lice lives on the hair and scalp and spread by head-to-head contact or the sharing of personal items that come in contact with the hair.
a Both adults and children can get head lice. However, head lice is more common in children and teens because of their increased tendency to share hair brushes and hats and the amount of time they spend in close contact at school, on sports teams, at summer camp or at sleepovers. Taking photographs in which hair and heads come into contact with each other (i.e. “selfies”) also commonly spreads head lice among children and teens.
a No, head lice are parasites that feed specifically on the blood of humans. You do not need to be concerned about passing head lice to pets or catching it from them.
a While not impossible, it is highly unlikely. When exposed to water, head lice clamp down securely on the hair strand so as to survive contact. It is for this reason that hair washing does not eradicate lice. Chlorine, seawater and shampoo are no match for this parasite. Head lice can, however, be passed by towels, hairbrushes and other personal items that have had contact with the hair of an individual who has lice.
a Head lice spread through contact with the head or hair of a person that has lice. Lice are passed by head-to-head contact or by sharing personal belongings with a person who has head lice such as hats, hairbrushes, pillows, clothing and even plush toys. Head lice do not jump or fly from host to host, they are only passed via direct contact with the head.
a Head lice are passed through head-to-head contact with an individual who has head lice or by sharing personal belongings such as hairbrushes, pillows, hats and anything else that touches the hair or scalp. Head lice are highly contagious and thus pass rapidly among children in close contact such as in schools, daycare centers, summer camps and on sports teams. Anyone can get head lice and anyone can pass it—the condition has no relation to the cleanliness of the home or personal hygiene.
a Head lice thrive in all environments. It is a myth that head lice are spread in unclean conditions or among people who exercise poor personal hygiene. In fact, lice tend to prefer clean hair over dirty. Lice are passed by direct contact with the hair of an individual who has head lice, or by sharing personal belongings that have been in recent contact with the hair and scalp of an infected individual.
a Getting head lice has no relation to how clean your child is or how often you wash his or her hair. Head lice are passed by head-to-head contact or by sharing personal belongings that have come in contact with the hair with someone who has lice.
a Yes. Head lice pass by head-to-head contact and by contact with the pillowcases and sheets of someone who has head lice.
a Yes. This is actually one of the primary ways in which lice is passed. Any objects that have come into contact with the hair and scalp, and are then shared with another person, can spread head lice.
a It depends on what type of contact you have had with this person. Have you shared a hairbrush, towel, pillowcase or hat? Has there been head-to-head contact, such as when hugging or taking photos (selfies)? If a close friend develops a case of head lice, it is wise to schedule a screening to rule out the possibility of lice. The sooner you catch it, the easier it is to treat and eliminate.
a While the probability is higher, it is not guaranteed. Lice are spread through the sharing of personal belongings that have come into contact with the hair, and by head-to-head contact. In the home lice can also live on sofa cushions, pillows, bedding and on cloth-upholstered car seats and headrests for up to 48 hours.
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