The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.
Head lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk.
Spread by contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon.
Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Is this a reportable illness?
This is not a reportable illness to CDPH but consult with your school nurse to learn more.
What do schools need to do next?
Students with suspected infestation may receive a confidential, discreet scalp inspection by a school nurse or an informed, principal-designate school staff member.
Active infestation is defined as the presence of live mobile lice and/or the presence of nits (lice eggs) within 3⁄4 inch from the scalp. This situation requires treatment.
Nits further than 3⁄4 inch from the scalp may also require treatment. See a health care professional for specific, individual advice.
Wide-scale head lice screening within schools is unwarranted and not recommended.
Students diagnosed with head lice infestation should present to school nurse/staff documentation of treatment upon return.
"No Nit" policies that mandate a student be free of all nits before return to school are ineffective and not recommended.
Within a household, all infested persons should be treated simultaneously to avoid re-infestations.
The most common, “first-line” pediculicides (medicines that kill lice) are topical and over-the-counter. Prescription pediculicides may be required if first-line treatments fail. Connect the family with medical care for follow up if over the counter medications are not effective.