Head lice are tiny insects that live on the skin covering the top of your head called the scalp. Head lice may also be found in eyebrows and eyelashes. Head lice infect hair on the head. Tiny eggs on the hair look like flakes of dandruff, however, instead of flaking off the scalp, they stay put. Head lice can live up to 30 days on a human. Their eggs can live for more than 2 weeks.
Head lice spread easily by close contact with other people, especially among school children. Head lice are more common in close, overcrowded living conditions. You can get head lice if you come in close contact with a person who has head lice, touch the clothing or bedding of someone who has head lice and share hats, towels, brushes, or combs of someone who has had head lice.
To confirm an active head lice infestation, a louse must be found through a reliable, accurate method, such as detection combing. Detection combing is the best way of finding head lice. It involves using a special fine-toothed head lice comb with a tooth spacing of 0.2 - 0.3mm to comb through the hair. The comb can trap even the smallest lice. It works better on wet hair but can also be used on dry hair. It's difficult to prevent a head lice infestation because head lice are spread by head-to-head contact.
Regular detection combing – for example, on a weekly basis – is the best way to find new lice quickly.
Head lice are a common problem, particularly in school children aged 4-11 years. It's difficult to know exactly how common head lice are because the problem is often treated at home, with people only visiting their doctor if treatment is unsuccessful.