Comb being brushed through hair

Head Lice Management (NHS)

What are head lice and how are they caught?

Head lice are small grey-brown insects that live on human scalps. They only live on humans and die after 30 days. They affect anyone, no matter the length or cleanliness of your hair. Head lice are usually caught when making head to head contact with someone who already has them. Sharing hats and pillows can spread them in some cases, but this isn’t as common.

Head lice are:

  • Very common in children in children between the age of 4 and 11.
  • Affect school girls more often than boys.
  • Usually found at the beginning of the school year.

What is an Infestation like?

Head lice like to feed on human blood multiple times a day. As they travel across the scalp and produce faeces, your head may become very itchy. Some people may be oblivious they have head lice as they do not experience the itch. Female head lice live for up to 40 days and can lay up to 6 eggs a day.

They do this by attaching these yellowish eggs (commonly known as nits) to the hairs close to the scalp surface. Eggs take 7 to 10 days to hatch. It then takes another 7 for them to become adults where they can start laying eggs themselves. This means a head lice infestation takes very little time to occur and this can make head lice management very difficult.

Identifying head lice and treatment:

Identifying head lice can be tricky as it can often be confused with dandruff and other scalp-related conditions. The best way to confirm you or a family member has head lice is to find them by using a special fine-toothed detection comb (a nit comb). The comb helps identify the lice and their eggs.

Are you and your child continually suffering from head lice? Visit one of our pharmacies to find out how we can help you with head lice management.

It is important to treat head lice the moment you spot them. Check everyone that you live with for lice and start treating them as soon as possible.

There are a few different ways to treat head lice, including:

Wet Combing

You can purchase a specialised fine-tooth comb, known as a “detection comb”, online or from one of our pharmacies. These usually come with instructions on the packaging, but if not, here is a short breakdown.

  • Wash hair with ordinary shampoo
  • Apply lots of conditioners
  • Comb the entire head of hair, from roots to the ends
  • Repeat this process on days 1,5,9 and 13 to ensure newly hatched lice are caught

Medicated Lotions and Sprays

If you have tried wet combing but seen little to no results, your pharmacist may recommend specialist medicated lotions and sprays. These help kill head lice in all hair types and are available from pharmacies, supermarkets and online stores.

Head lice should die within a day and some lotions and sprays come with a comb to help remove dead lice.

Some lotions and sprays require repeat use to have the full effect, make sure to check the packaging for recommended use