- Is infestation with head lice reportable?
- I don't like my school's head lice policy, can CDC do something?
- Do head lice spread disease?
- Can head lice be spread by sharing sports helmets and headphones?
- Can wigs or hair pieces spread lice?
- Can swimming spread lice?
Is infestation with head lice reportable?
Most health departments do not require reporting of head lice infestation. However, it may be beneficial for the sake of others to share information with school nurses, parents of classmates, and others about contact with head lice.
I don't like my school's head lice policy, can CDC do something?
CDC does not regulate local public health policies. School head lice policies often are determined by local school boards. Health departments may have guidelines that address school head lice policies; check with your local and state health departments to see if they have such recommendations.
Current evidence does not support the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of classroom or school-wide screening for head lice to reduce the number of head lice infestations among school children. “No-nits” policies that require a student to be free of nits before they can return to school are not recommended. Students diagnosed with live head lice should not be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class the next day. Excluding children from school because of head lice is not recommended.
Do head lice spread disease?
Head lice should not be considered as a medical or public health hazard. Head lice are not known to spread disease. Head lice can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.
Can head lice be spread by sharing sports helmets or headphones?
Head lice are spread most commonly by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Spread by contact with inanimate objects and personal belongings may occur but is very uncommon. Head lice feet are specially adapted for holding onto human hair. Head lice would have difficulty attaching firmly to smooth or slippery surfaces like plastic, metal, polished synthetic leathers, and other similar materials.
Can wigs or hair pieces spread lice?
Head lice and their eggs (nits) soon perish if separated from their human host. Adult head lice can live only a day or so off the human head without blood for feeding. Nymphs (young head lice) can live only for several hours without feeding on a human. Nits (head lice eggs) generally die within a week away from their human host and cannot hatch at a temperature lower than that close to the human scalp. For these reasons, the risk of transmission of head lice from a wig or other hairpiece is extremely small, particularly if the wig or hairpiece has not been worn within the preceding 48 hours by someone who is actively infested with live head lice.
Can swimming spread lice?
Data show that head lice can survive under water for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool. Head lice have been seen to hold tightly to human hair and not let go when submerged under water. Chlorine levels found in pool water do not kill head lice.
Head lice may be spread by sharing towels or other items that have been in contact with an infested person's hair, although such spread is uncommon. Children should be taught not to share towels, hair brushes, and similar items either at poolside or in the changing room.
Swimming or washing the hair within 1-2 days after treatment with some head lice medicines might make some treatments less effective. Seek the advice of your health care provider or health department if you have questions.
Page last reviewed: May 16, 2008
Content Source: Division of Parasitic Diseases (DPD)
National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED)