What are head lice?
Head lice are common. They are small (adult lice are 3 - 4 mm long) greyish parasitic insects that live only on human scalps. They cannot fly, or jump, or burrow into the scalp, but their six legs are perfectly adapted for clinging firmly onto scalp hairs. Their presence does not imply a lack of cleanliness.
How are head lice acquired?
Head lice are usually picked up from someone who has them by head-to-head contact; it takes about 30 seconds for a louse to transfer from one scalp to another. Less often, shared hats, combs or pillows spread them. Head lice live only on humans and die in a day or two away from the human scalp. They cannot be caught from animals.
Every civilization in human history has tried to get rid of head lice, but they are still here. That's because head lice are very, very good at what they do - and because, until now, there has been no safe, reliable way to remove an entire infestation (head lice, nits AND 'live' eggs) quickly and easily. If you don't get rid of the eggs, you end up right back where you started. Head lice are very good at moving from one host to another during head-to-head contact. When your hair is touching someone else's, even for a few moments, there is an opportunity for head lice to migrate. This is why they are so prevalent amongst primary school children. Children with long hair are less prone to catching headlice if they keep their hair tied back which is what we recommend in school.
(Remember children need to have their hair tied back for P.E. and games anyway)