You may think that lice are only a problem for schools and small children, but adults can get lice too. Make sure you know how to protect and rid yourself of these annoying insects and their eggs.
There are three kinds of lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. None of them can hop or fly, so they rely on getting to their hosts through person-to-person contact. You’ll probably notice when you have them if you feel a tickling or itching in your hair, or other parts of your body.
Their bites may cause an allergic reaction that causes the itching, or you may get sores from scratching. Those sores can become infected by bacteria found on the skin. Head lice are most active in the dark. It’s best to figure out what kind of lice you have and treat the problem parasites as soon as possible to avoid passing them on to others.
It’s important to know that lice are almost always spread through contact with an infested person. Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the transmission of human lice.
It usually takes coming into head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice to get head lice. People don’t typically get them from contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by someone who has lice. Personal hygiene or cleanliness has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the scalp in hair, but they don’t spread disease.
The best way to treat head lice is to use a fine tooth comb and extract all the nits (small eggs attached to hair) by hand and then treat the hair with an over-the-counter or prescription product. Watch this video by the American Academy of Dermatology to learn how to get rid of head lice. Be sure that everyone in the house where the infested person lives is treated and checked, and that the sheets and clothes the person uses are washed in hot water.
Body lice may spread disease. They’re usually spread through close person-to-person contact and are more common in crowded sleeping quarters and with those who have poor hygiene. Learn more about them on this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.
Improved hygiene and access to regular changes of clean clothes is the only treatment needed for body lice infestations.
Pubic lice typically are found attached to hair in the pubic area, but sometimes are found on coarse hair elsewhere on the body (for example, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, mustache, chest, armpits, etc.).
Pubic lice infestations are usually spread through sexual contact. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for treatment of pubic lice infestations.
This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor.