Can Head Lice Really Jump?

In short, no, lice cannot jump, fly or hop. They crawl so fast and spread rapidly that people often think they must jump or fly from one host to another. Here's an overview of head lice.

What Are Lice?

Lice are tiny insects that live on humans and feed off their blood. Lice can be found on the head, body and in the pubic hair. They can grow up to three millimeters and can be white, dark brown or gray colored. They lay eggs, or nits, by attaching them in a sack to your hair. Nits will look like flakes of dandruff, but cannot be brushed out, as the lice glues the eggs to your hair. A lice infestation occurs when a large number of lice live on a person.

Symptoms of Head Lice

Symptoms of head lice are simple, the most common one being an itchy head. Severe itching may cause skin irritation; skin scratched raw can become infected so take care to avoid serious itching of the scalp. In some cases, the hair may fall out and the scalp will darken.

Treatment of Head Lice

Usually head lice can be cured with an over the counter lice cream or shampoo, which washes the lice and eggs away. A second treatment may be needed to ensure the lice are removed. A fine toothed comb can be used in addition to treatment to remove lice from hair. Some people have found success through using a fine toothed comb alone, but it's not recommended because it's so easy to miss even one or two lice. Use a steroid cream or antihistamine can relieve severe itching. Many people fear using an over the counter shampoo because if all the side affects it can come with. There are all natural shampoos on the market that have no harmful side affects and work great the first shampooing.

Preventing Lice Infestations

There are a number of ways to decrease your likelihood of having lice. Don't share hats or scarves, or store your hat near others in a public place. We hear of lice outbreaks in schools regularly; have your child be careful where they place their hats. Lice can live in bedding for a day or two, and can be spread this way. Remember lice can affect anyone. The easiest way to prevent it is to avoid it.

Lice in Your Home

If your child has come home from school with lice, be sure to wash all their clothes in hot water. Vacuum the floors, wash bedding and towels; anything that cannot be washed should be put in airtight backs for 4 days. Wash all combs and brushes in hot water, at least 130 F, or soak in rubbing alcohol at least an hour. The key to controlling a lice infestation is to catch it as early as possible. If your scalp is itching or you notice your child is itching, check for lice immediately. Stay home from work and keep your child home from school. Many schools will not allow children back in until they can pass a lice inspection.


Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin

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