Updated on July 28, 2020
By Tierna Moser
We have all heard that if you share hats, you are at risk of contracting head lice. But is that the most likely way to get head lice? Is it even possible that you will get head lice from sharing hats or sports helmets?
While lice do not like to leave a head where the temperature is optimal and where their food source is (human blood), a very small possibility exists that you may contract a case of head lice from a hat.
How To Check A Hat For Lice
We are often asked the question – “Does wearing a hat prevent lice?” Maybe. The most common way to get head lice is through direct head to head contact, so wearing a hat may provide a small barrier to head lice because, as mentioned previously, lice do not like to stray from the warm, life sustaining environment they need to thrive. Of course, the more coverage the hat provides, the more effective it would be in preventing head lice. If it is winter in a cold region and your hair is up in a bun under a thick wool hat, you are probably fairly protected. If the weather is warm and you have your hair in a pony tail under a baseball cap, you are a less likely candidate for lice than if your hair were more accessible to the lice.
Before you put on a hat, it would be wise to check the hat for head lice whether it is your own or if trying on someone else’s. The most practical way to do this is just to do a visual inspection of the hat. You want to be sure to check the hat in its entirety including in the brim of the hat (if applicable) and any creases that may be present. As an added option, you could even roll a lint roller over the surface of the hat. This could serve 2 purposes – remove any cosmetic debris, but it will also grab any bugs it comes into contact with.
Can You Get Lice From Sharing Hats?
Many people fear that sharing hats, combs, and hair accessories is a major source of spreading head lice. In fact, sharing of hats and other related items represents only a minor cause of the spread of head lice. Does that mean that we at LiceDoctors suggest that you share your hats with friends? Absolutely not, however it is important to recognize that nearly 95% of the cases of head lice derive from direct head-to-head contact.
The second time my daughter had head lice, we were stumped as to where she had gotten it. We hadn’t spent much time with people recently and my daughter was homeschooled. The best thing we could come up with was that during a recent trip to the mall she had tried on a few hats at a department store. So can you get head lice from trying on a hat? And for that matter, can you get lice from sharing hats? A small likelihood does exist that you could get a case of lice by sharing a hat with an infested person or from trying on a hat an infested person had worn. For this to happen, the infested person has to wear that hat and at least one pregnant bug, or two bugs of the opposite sex, must leave the head and reside on that hat. Another person has to put on that hat before the bugs die or crawl off the hat. Since lice only live off the head for a few hours, this is not a great likelihood, but it is possible.
How Long Can Head Lice Live In A Hat?
What if, however, you recently were in a position, like hosting a slumber or costume party, where your hats may have been exposed to head lice but you just aren’t sure and you don’t have the time to carefully inspect each hat? Consider the life cycle of lice.
Whether you have one hat or are a connoisseur of hats with a large collection, considering basic facts about lice can be of great comfort when considering the question, “How long can head lice live in a hat?” If a louse has made its way onto a hat, unless it finds its way to another human host, it will die. Lice need the warmth and food source only the human head can provide to survive. As soon as they are separated from this environment they begin to become weak, and if they do not find their way back to the food source in time, they will die on their own within 24 hours, and usually a lot less than that.
You don’t need to worry about nits (eggs).They are glued to the hair and rarely fall out. If by some chance, a hat yanked out a hair with nits on it, those nits are inert. They will not hatch off the head and make a home in your hat.
How To Get Lice Out Of Hats
If you are dealing with perhaps a large school play that includes a bunch of hats, or oversee a sports team and want to ensure you are not contributing to the spread of head lice (unlikely as that would be from a vector like a hat), you’ll want to know how to kill lice in hats. Simply waving the hat around in hopes of shaking off any live bugs would prove futile as the bugs cling on tight with all of their legs. While visual inspection and manual killing of lice can go a long way, it may not be practical in these types of scenarios. If it is, then visually view the hats and pull off any lice that you may see. If you don’t need the hats right away then you can isolate the hat(s) for a day and any and all lice will die. If you want to be really aggressive, although this is not necessary, simply put the hats in a bag and put them in the freezer overnight. If there are lice present, freezing them will ensure they are dead by the next day.
If you find head lice in your family or if you just need a head check, call LiceDoctors today at 800-224-2537. An experienced technician will come to you whenever you want and will do a thorough and professional lice treatment combing and will hand pick the remaining nits from the hair. Technicians have the experience and expertise to make sure that you are lice-free so that you can get on with your life without the burden of dealing with this problem. That's our guarantee!