Updated on June 25, 2020
By Lice Technician, Chelsea Lonergan
April 17, 2020
Maybe you’ve gotten one of those dreaded emails from the school: “We’ve had recent cases of head lice so you should check everyone’s head in your family.” Or maybe you were brushing your child’s hair one morning, noticed her scratching the same spot, and spotted it: a louse. Are you panicking because you’re worried your family’s about to get hit with a relentless wave of head lice? Or are you worried because you don’t know who it may have already been spread to? Perhaps you’re considering a sort of inflatable, plastic snow globe you can have your loved one live in for a while to stop lice transmission within your family?
How Contagious are Head Lice?
While lice are not the Michael Phelps of the parasite world (they crawl not fly), they are highly contagious. They are pesky, hard to spot, and annoying to get rid of completely. Lice spread from person to person, but often not in the ways that most people suspect. So, just how contagious are head lice?
The question can be answered with another simple question: how frequently and for how long are you putting your head next to other people’s heads? If the answer is never, you are likely fairly safe.
If the answer is all the time, you are much more at risk of transmitting lice or getting lice from another person. That is why young children get lice more often than adults (especially adults who do not have children). Why, and why don’t other factors seem to matter as much?
Why Are Lice Contagious?
There are three main reasons why lice are so contagious and move directly between people:
- Lice prefer more space to feed on the blood (they are parasites and you are their host). They want as much room as possible to suck the blood from your head and they like to have less competition. As soon as it gets crowded on the head, the lice transfer to another head if they can get to another head. Given how quickly lice reproduce (each louse lays up to 10 eggs a day) it doesn’t take long for them to want to find another head. LiceDoctors - How Contagious are Head Lice?
- Lice can only crawl so you need to be close to another person so that the bugs can leave your head and climb onto another head. They use the hair as a rope to climb up and down. Children in playgroups, out on the playground, at slumber parties, at camp, etc are most likely to transmit or get lice. The more social kids are are, the more they are in contact with other kids, the more likely it is that they will get lice.
- Lice do not want to move on to an object because there is no food or warmth for them there. Many people assume that lice are often found on clothing, backpacks, headphones, brushes, etc. While, yes, lice have been found on these objects, it is not that common. They are called head lice because they want to go and be on a human head. The head has the temperature that they desire and the food that they need. They are very hearty and tenacious creatures and they want to maximize their one-month potential lifespan. The way to do that is for them to feed on the head until it gets too crowded and then find another head. You do not have to spend a lot of time washing bedding or applying lice treatment for furniture. Lice on these objects will not live long. And never use a lice spray in the house; it is toxic and unnecessary. LiceDoctors - Can Lice Live on Couches?
The one saving grace is, as we said previously, lice are no Michael Phelps. This is not only due to the fact that they can’t swim (although they really can’t). And it is not due to the fact that they are not affected by chlorine (although this is true; does chlorine kill lice? The answer is no!). While lice seem to be consistently shrouded in mystery, lice do not travel by fins, wings, trains, planes, or automobiles. Lice move via their legs—six of them—as fast as a sesame seed-sized being can crawl. In fact, according to The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, lice can’t go any faster than about 4 inches a minute. You do need to be close enough to someone for the louse to climb out and over to your hair. Source: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Keep in mind that it doesn’t take long for a head to get crowded and the longer you have a lice infestation, the more contagious you are. In a case like this one, the lice are “itching” to find another head. If your child has a play date and has this level of lice infestation, she will more likely than not transmit lice to her friend.
How Do You Prevent Lice?
This is a tough one. Lice are very common today and it is very difficult to control the spread. We recommend that you check your children’s hair weekly. Not everyone has symptoms of lice. If you are not allergic to the saliva that a louse emits when feeding from your blood (like with mosquitoes), you will not be itchy. Look for signs of lice so that if your child has a new case, you can catch it early on before there are hundreds of nits in the hair. Examples of lice symptoms include scratching, red bumps, and sensation of movement on the scalp.
If you do find that your child has a case of lice, it is best to let your child’s friends’ parents know. You may want to talk about this policy of sharing information about lice among your group of friends. You want your child’s friends’ parents to feel comfortable calling you if they find lice so you can be on the lookout and catch a case at the beginning. And by doing this, you give them the opportunity to have their child checked and treated and you cut down on the risk of your child getting it back from that friend once your child is clear.
Other lice prevention strategies include putting long hair up into a bun or braid to make it less accessible to the bugs. You should also consider spraying a layer of hair spray or lice repellent spray over the hair. This is especially helpful in stopping lice transmission if you know that your child will be around other kids.
LiceDoctors offers a protective spray: LiceDoctors Lice Repellent Spray. When there is a coating over the hair, it is more difficult for the lice to claw onto the hair and then climb up to the scalp. Lice prefer clean hair because it is easier for them to grab. Our LiceDoctors Peppermint Repellent Spray coats the hair and it has the additional benefit of having a peppermint scent which is used to naturally ward off head lice. Peppermint is also used as one of the natural ways to kill lice. While nothing guarantees that your child will be protected from lice, lice repellent sprays can help.
What Do You Do If You Find Lice?
Consider that even if you do everything that you can, it is not possible to control all of the variables that cause a lice transmission. The best you can do is to be vigilant about doing lice checks. When checking for lice at home, be sure to use bright light so that you don’t miss any signs. You can use a lamp or outside natural sunlight. If you find any lice or nits, call LiceDoctors. Experienced technicians make house calls to families all around the Shawnee and Lawrence area. Help to break the cycle of head lice by treating your child professionally as soon as you learn she has an infestation. It takes experience and expertise, to find and eliminate all signs of nits and lice. With 500,000 successfully treated clients, LiceDoctors guarantees that you will be lice-free after being treated.
You want lice removal near you and in-home lice treatment is as convenient as there is. We know how to kill lice at home and make sure that they do not return. Getting rid of lice eggs is as important as eliminating the lice. You are not lice-free until lice, at all stages of development, are eradicated. There are home made lice remedies, over-the-counter lice medications, and prescription lice treatments available and none have the success rate and safety record of LiceDoctors. In addition, the cost of LiceDoctors treatment averages about half the cost of treatment at a lice salon. Our treatments do not have any of the risks of a hot air treatment and are safe for children and adults of all ages. LiceDoctors is the only lice treatment service in Kansas with a medical doctor on staff.
Call LiceDoctors in the Shawnee and Lawrence area at 913-766-2415. At-home lice removal service is available day or night every day of the year. Once your hair lice removal expert arrives at your home, you will feel relieved to know that you are on your way to being lice free. Lice treatment comes with a 30 day guarantee.