Head Lice

By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Head Lice are small, wingless insects found on the head. They feed on blood through the scalp. Having lice is not a sign of poor hygiene. Lice lay eggs, which are white, and attach close to the base of the hair at the scalp. Although eggs resemble dandruff, they do not ‘brush out’ like flaky skin does. Although lice do not jump or fly, they are easily passed from one child to another through direct head-to-head contact. Though annoying, lice usually do not cause any other health issues. They do not carry infections or disease. Having lice once does not protect you from getting it again.


The main symptom of lice is itchiness. Children will often scratch their heads, even in their sleep, to stop this irritation. Some children do not experience symptoms.


If you find lice you need to treat it. Your child should not attend day-care or school until treatment has begun. 

Method One:

You can follow the ‘finding lice’ method above, to treat lice. According to the Victoria Department of Health you need to repeat this method every second day until there have been no live lice found for ten days.

  • Finding Lice:  Because lice move so quickly, it is easier to find them after applying conditioner to your child’s head (this slows them down as they can’t grip the hair as well).
  • Next, thoroughly comb your child’s hair with a fine-toothed lice comb. This can be purchased from the pharmacy.
  • You need to comb every section of your child’s hair, starting at the scalp to ensure you are getting the eggs from the base of the hair.
  • After combing each section, wipe the conditioner onto a paper towel, then repeat for the rest of the head.
  • According to the Victoria Department of Health, this process should be repeated 4-5 times for the whole head.

Method Two:

There are products you can buy from the pharmacy designed to kill lice. Some contain strong chemicals. Speak to your pharmacist for further advice.

Preventing Lice:

Tying long hair back, and perhaps plaiting or braiding it, may help reduce the risk of your child catching lice.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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