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Head lice

Head lice, also called nits, are very common in young children. They don’t have anything to do with dirty hair.

Check if you have them

Head lice are small insects, up to 3mm long.
Close up view of a louse.
Head lice eggs are yellow, brown or white (empty shells) and attached to the hair.

Other signs of head lice can include:

  • an itchy head
  • the feeling of something moving in your hair

As soon as you spot head lice you should treat them. You can do this without seeing your GP.

There’s no need to keep your child off school with head lice.

How to get rid of head lice

Use lotion or spray to get rid of head lice

You can use medicated lotions and sprays that kill head lice in all types of hair, including afro hair. These can be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets or online.

They are used in different ways so it’s important to follow the instructions carefully.

Head lice should die and fall out within a day. These products come with a comb to remove dead lice and eggs.

You should repeat treatment after a week to kill any lice hatched from eggs left in the hair.

Check everyone at home for lice. Only treat hair if you find head lice or eggs.

If treatment hasn’t worked, speak to your pharmacist about an alternative lotion or spray.

Use a special comb if you don’t want to use chemicals

You can buy a special fine-toothed comb online or from pharmacies.

You should:

  • use the comb on wet hair
  • comb from the roots to the end of the hair
  • remove lice and eggs from the comb
  • repeat every few days for 2 weeks

It may help to comb the hair over a white piece of paper to catch any lice.

You can’t prevent head lice

There’s nothing you can do to prevent head lice. However, you can reduce the risk of lice spreading by avoiding head-to-head contact.

Don’t use medicated lotions and sprays to prevent head lice. They can irritate the scalp when used too often.

Medical detail about head lice.