Head Lice

Head lice are a common nuisance whenever there is close head-to-head contact, particularly among children in child care programs, schools and recreational groups. Head lice pose no health risk.

Head lice are tiny, brown insects about the size of a pinhead that live on the scalp. They cannot jump or fly, but can crawl quickly from one person’s head to another. Lice can also be spread by sharing personal items, such as headwear, scarves, towels, bedding, helmets and hair brushes.

Signs of head lice

The only way to know if a person has head lice is to see lice or their eggs (nits). Nits are tiny, oval-shaped, yellowish-white specks that are firmly attached to the hair close to the scalp.

The best protection is to regularly check hair for nits and lice. Nits are usually found close to the scalp attached to the fine hair behind the ears, at the back of the neck and above the forehead. They may look like dandruff but will not flick off the hair.

When looking for lice or nits:

  1. Sit under a bright light, or by a window.
  2. Part the hair in small sections.
  3. Check the entire head, going from one side of the head to the other.
  4. Remove the nits by using your thumbnail against your first finger to grab the nit and slide it along the entire length of the hair shaft.
  5. Place nits in a plastic bag, then seal the bag and put it in the garbage.

How to treat head lice

  • Treat head lice or nits right away
  • Ask your pharmacist to suggest an effective treatment product; check for ingredients that may trigger allergies. Learn more about treatment options.
  • Follow product instructions carefully
  • No treatment product is 100% effective, always remove ALL nits
  • If you see live, active lice 8-12 hours after treatment, immediately treat again with a different product
  • Treat again with head lice product in 7 to 10 days to prevent lice from returning
  • Avoid alternative treatments, their effectiveness has not been scientifically documented
  • Continue to check daily for 2-3 weeks to be sure all lice and nits are gone

Check with your child’s school or daycare for policies around attendance and head lice.

It’s important to know that anyone can get head lice!


If you have a question please call us at 519.482.3416 or toll free 1.877.837.6143. Ask to speak to a public health nurse on the School Health team.