Support your local head lice!Head louse, from Wikipedia

Ok, maybe not. But do remember that fall is peak season for lice. In fact, estimates say between 6 to 12 million children are infected each year in the US. From a press release:

“These tiny head invaders are most often found in preschoolers and elementary-school students because children that age tend to play together and have close head-to-head contact in closed spaces, which makes transmission easier,” says Bernard Cohen, M. D., a pediatric dermatologist at the Children’s Center.

There’s 3 key things to remember:

1. Make sure your child really has lice. Lots of other things can cause itching, and not everything that’s small and white on the scalp is a louse.

2. If you do find lice, don’t panic. Humans and lice have lived together for centuries. In fact, it’s really only in the last 50 years that some of humanity has been louse free. You don’t need to designate your scalp as a louse habitat preserve; just don’t freak out and loose your ability to deal with the problem rationally. Head lice, unlike some other lice, do not transmit any human disease.

3. If you treat the lice with over-the-counter lice shampoos, follow the instructions exactly. This is not a time for improvising–some of the over-the-counter shampoos contain ingredients that you don’t want your child exposed to for an extended period. Usually you have to repeat the special shampoo one week later. This is an important step!

If you still haven’t gotten rid of the lice, you can get stronger treatments from your doctor. Don’t use mayonnaise, vinegar, saran wrap, gasoline (!), or any pesticides that were not prescribed by your doctor. These can severely damage a child’s scalp.

You may read about “fomite transmission” when investigating head lice. This is just a fancy way to say “articles of clothing or other inert objects may occasionally transmit a louse.” I’m hoping that all the readers of this blog are smart enough not to borrow the hat of someone they know has head lice,anyway.

Drastic measures aren’t needed to get purge your home of lice; they are actually pretty wimpy creatures and don’t survive longer than a day or two off the nice, warm environment of a human head.

From the CDC:

More info:

  • A video on how to remove lice safely, and a nice fact sheet.
  • Medical article on Lice and how to treat them — includes nice info on what is known to not work, too. Aromatherapy seems not to be effective :)
  • Photos from the Mayo Clinic of a louse infestation

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. What about the use of DDT to keep lice out? :-)

  2. I thought about mentioning that–it’s the only approved use of Lindane, but then I thought I should stick to short and sweet.

    I am tempted to do a follow up post on all the stupid suggestions I found to “fix” a lice problem online. Amazing.

  3. When parents face Head Lice for the first time, it can be shocking to them. They feel embarrassed. They feel ashamed. Oftentimes they will not tell anyone about the problem because they are so mortified. These parents need someone to talk to – someone who’s been there…someone who can help them one-on-one to eliminate the lice from their heads and their environment. is a group of volunteers who have already been through the head lice problem and have successfully eradicated head lice and nits from their lives. They are caring individuals who have kindly volunteered a few hours per week to talk to people on the phone about head lice. They are trained on how to help people with head lice over the phone – listening, sharing their personal story, offering comfort and great tips & advice about how to get rid of the lice and stop the cycle of re-infestation. Log on and talk to them – they understand & can help.

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