Head Lice – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Head Lice – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Head Lice - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

By Dr Aman Sharma, Dermatology

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live in the hair present on the scalp of a person. They derive their nutrition by sucking and feeding off the blood from the scalp. The size of a single adult louse is equivalent to that of a sesame seed and the size of a nit i.e. louse egg, is around the size of a small dandruff flake. Here are ways to prevent dandruff.

What causes Head Lice?

Being contagious, infections owing to head lice occur when the insects make their way into the person’s scalp hair. Some of the ways the head lice can make their way into a person’s hair include:

  • Direct contact of an uninfected person’s head with an infected person’s head.
  • Use of the same clothes after an infected person has used them.
  • Using personal items of an infected person.

Transfer of head lice from an infected person to another is possible through combs, brushes, headbands, barrettes, hats, headphones, etc. They are also capable of surviving on upholstered bedding, furniture, clothing or towels, though for a short span of time. You can also check our the best ways to prevent split ends.

Who Is at Risk for Head Lice?

Preschool and elementary school students have the highest risk of getting head lice. They tend to play closely together and share items that touch their heads. There is also an increased risk of head lice for family members of school-aged children. People who work in a day care center, preschool, or elementary school share this risk.


Certain common symptoms include:

  1. Extreme itchiness on the scalp
  2. Crawling sensation on the scalp
  3. Scabs and sores on the scalp due to scratching


Many treatments for head lice infestation are available and most of them need to be administered twice, as the second one will eliminate any new nits. Some of the treatments include:

  1. Medications: These include both prescription treatments as well as OTC (over-the-counter) medications.
    1. OTC medications include Pyrethrin and Permethrin.
    2. Prescription medicines include Benzyl alcohol lotion, Malathion and Lindane.
  2. Alternative Treatment: In case pesticides are to be avoided, healthy practices can help in eliminating head lice. Suggestions include using a fine-toothed comb to remove the lice. Olive Oil should be applied so that the lice and nits stick to the comb and can be removed easily. Or you can even take a free consultation from a specialized dermatologist at Lybrate.