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How Contagious is Head Lice?

How Contagious is Head Lice?
Updated on 
April 12, 2017

What Is Lice?

Head lice is a common human parasite which lives its entire lifecycle on the human head hair. By far the most likely way to get head lice is if you came in contact with someone with lice in their hair. The main symptom associated with head lice is itching of the scalp. Yet itching doesn’t start until weeks after catching lice, and some people with lice don’t itch. Nits are the eggs the lice lay on the hairs, and are a better symptom to watch out for, as they’re often visible before the bugs themselves. Because of no-nit policies in schools, parents wonder, how contagious are nits? But the real question should be, if there are nits, are there active lice that I’m not seeing?

How Contagious Is Lice?

Here at LiceDoctors, we receive this question often. Parents whose children have friends with head lice, or who have been exposed are naturally concerned with the question is lice contagious or not? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Head lice is very contagious – especially when the person who has lice has had it for a long period of time resulting in a severe infestation. Lice have been around for thousands of years and they have managed to last by moving from head to head. If you put a child with lice near another child, chances are fairly good that at least one bug from the infested child will move on to the other child's head. If a severe infestation is present, the hair will be crowded with nits, so lice will try to move on to another head. When another available, presumably less crowded, head of hair shows up and is within reach, live bugs will happily travel to the new head. Why not? A non-infested head means less competition for a feeding spot for the newly arrived lice.

How Long Is Lice Contagious?

For a case of head lice to be considered contagious, live bugs need to be present. Therefore, there is no time limit for improperly treated lice infestations. Cases of head lice will remain contagious as long as there are live bugs on the head. However, do not be lulled into a sense of security thinking that your problems are gone once all of the bugs are killed or removed from the head. To get rid of a case of head lice completely, each and every bug and nit (lice egg) must be removed from the hair. Left in the hair, just 2 eggs can start an infestation all over again.

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How Long After Lice Treatment Are You Contagious?

Once all of the live bugs are removed from the head or killed, a case of head lice can be considered no longer contagious as the bugs are the culprit when it comes to spreading to others. The remaining nits in the hair are not contagious (until a few days after they hatch). On their own, nits will not come off of a strand of hair. Once removed, they will not reattach to another strand of hair. It is important to follow up treatment to be sure there are no more nit sightings. After a single treatment with LiceDoctors, you are no longer contagious! Your lice technician will ensure that every single live bug and visible nit is removed from the hair at the time of service and will provide a follow-up plan to ensure your family’s case of head lice is totally eradicated. If you discover lice on your child or your own head, give LiceDoctors a call at 800-224-2537. We have a live lice expert who will answer your call from 7 am until after midnight every day of the week and we are eager to help you.

What Else Do You Need to Know About Lice?

  • Anyone with hair on their head can get lice.
  • People with clean hair are more susceptible to catching lice than people with dirty hair
  • Head lice never infest belongings, homes, or pets. They will die within about a day of being unable to access a human head.
  • By the time most parents notice the lice issue, it has been present and contagious for weeks
  • Many schools have dropped no-nit policies, in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. This is good for academics but means that parents and guardians are responsible for identifying, treating, and tracing.

Is lice contagious during treatment? You can definitely catch lice while treating your children. Take precautions like wearing your hair up under a cap and applying hair oils.  By the time you are treating the kids, there’s a good chance you’ve already caught it. Once LiceDoctors treats your children, they will no longer be contagious.

Check for Lice in Kids nd Adults

Lice are contagious in close quarters, and the symptoms of lice aren’t always obvious. People think of lice as a childhood problem. While most cases of lice are brought home by the youngest members of the family, by the time you witness the youngest child scratching excessively, the lice have usually spread to others. 

About 75% of the time, when we treat lice on a child, we locate some nits on Mom, Dad, or a sibling. If anyone in your home has head lice, then everyone in your home is at risk and your hair should be checked. 

LiceDoctors home lice treatment service includes checking every family member with a special combing check that can detect lice before it’s symptomatic, at our same hourly rate. Call for details!

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