It is easy to get lice. Lice are spread by head-to-head contact and are much harder to get than a cold, the flu, ear infections, pink eye, strep throat or impetigo.
Avoiding lice is important, as they are dirty and spread disease. Lice do not spread any known disease, nor are they impacted by dirty or clean hygiene. They are just annoying.
Head lice are very sturdy creatures and can survive many days off of people in furniture, linens or clothing. Head lice need a blood meal every few hours and the warmth of the human scalp to survive. When off the human body, they cannot survive for more than 24 to 36 hours.
Nits (lice eggs) can fall off a person’s head, hatch and cause another person to get lice. Nits are glued to the hair shaft by a cement-like substance and are very hard to remove. When a nymph (baby louse) is hatched, it must quickly have the warmth and food source of a head to survive.
Cutting a person’s hair will prevent head lice infestations. The length of a person’s hair does not impact his or her risk of getting head lice.
You can get head lice from sitting in a desk next to someone who is infested with head lice. Head lice are spread through direct head-to-head contact. The lice do not hop, jump or fly, so sitting near someone with head lice does not increase the risk of getting the lice.
Lice are commonly spread throughout schools. Transmissions in schools are rare. It is more common to get head lice from family members, overnight guests and playmates who spend a lot of time together.
Lice are commonly spread through hats or helmets. Although spread through hats or helmets is possible, it is rare. It is more common for transmission to occur from pillows, hairbrushes or sheets. The most common type of transmission is from head-to-head contact.
Schools and child-care facilities should screen all children for head lice, so everyone can be treated and the spread of head lice will be prevented. Having regularly scheduled mass screenings does not reduce the incidence of head lice. “No-nit” policies reduce the risk of head lice in schools and child-care facilities. Research shows “no-nit” policies do not decrease the number of cases of head lice. They do increase the risk of incorrect diagnosis of head lice, the number of days children are out of school, and negative social stigma associated with head lice. They also may hinder academic performance.
You can get lice from your dog or other pets. Head lice are specific to humans. You can get human lice only from other humans. You cannot give your pets lice.