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Head lice - what to do

lice; nit; insect; headlice; louse; itch; head; hair; scalp; egg;shampoo ;


This topic tells you what to do if you have head lice.  To learn what head lice are and what they look like see the topic Head lice - what are they?

Head lice can make you feel uncomfortable but they won't hurt your health and there are lots of things you can do to get rid of the little nuisances.

What to do if you think you've got head lice

If your head feels itchy:

  • headliceDon't panic. This is not a major drama.
  • See if there are any tiny spots of black on your pillow or collar.
  • Get mum, dad or your caregiver to check your hair for lice or nits. Tell them to look around the ears, the back of the neck and under your fringe, if you've got one.
  • Comb hair conditioner through your dry hair. Then use a special fine-toothed comb and comb through your hair one part at a time. Wipe the comb on a tissue or paper towel and look for lice.
  • Everyone in the family needs to be checked.
  • Get mum to ask at school or the chemist for some lotion or shampoo to treat the head lice. Some people may be able to get this from their school.
  • Everyone in the family needs to be treated (if they have head lice) at the same time!!!
  • It's a good idea to stay home from school until you have had the treatment. Treatment can be done after school one night and you can go back to school the next day.
  • Get mum or dad to write a note for your teacher or ring the school so that people can start searching for and killing these little creatures before everyone gets them. Don't worry - your teacher won't tell anyone you have them.
  • You will need to use the treatment again after one week to kill any lice that hatched out after you had treated them. The treatment kills the lice, but it might not kill all of the eggs. DO NOT use the treatment more often than it says on the label.
  • Do make sure that you follow the instructions exactly and let your hair dry by itself afterwards.
  • Wash combs, brushes and bed linen in hot soapy water to get rid of any lice that may be hanging on them.
  • Put soft toys and pillows in a zipped-up plastic bag and leave out in the sunshine for a few hours. The heat will kill the lice.

Ask your parent or caregiver to read the topic Head lice to find out more about lice and what to do.

Historical note

In the 'olden days' the stuff you had to use was horrible and people could smell it for days, but now it mostly smells like an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Mums would comb their children's hair with a special thin comb to comb out the dead lice and eggs.

I remember getting them, as a kid, when I had very long hair and it was really painful having this smelly, sticky stuff rubbed into my scalp and then the thin comb being dragged through my hair. The second time I got them mum had my hair cut really short so it didn't hurt. But it was still smelly! Isn't it great that we don't have to go through all that nowadays?

You can still use these special combs to get out lice and nits (metal ones are better), but you have to do it every two days for it to work and continue until no more lice or eggs can be seen. With conditioners in the treatment, your hair is not all sticky and tangly, so it is easy to get the comb through.


Some kids' poems about head lice

  • Lice move heads, lice move quick
    Nits stick to hair and really grip
    Lice make you itch, they make you twitch.
    When you go to school today
    Maybe your lice will run away!
    Jemma and Natalie
  • Head lice are not very nice
    Crawling in your head
    Maybe even in your bed
    If you get them
    You've got to kill them.
    Wash them out with a special shampoo
    Now they won't bother you.
  • Once I had nits
    My mum and dad flipped.
    My mum washed my hair
    I'd like to declare
    That I didn't like it at all.
  • Lice are very itchy
    They love to hang around.
    They hide themselves in thick hair
    They don't like it on the ground.

Note: some people call head lice 'nits' but nits are really the eggs so they can't move around on your head.

See if you can put the missing words into this poem.

Head lice are not very_ _ _ _

Wash your hair not once but _ _ _ _ _

Wash your sheets and wash your_ _ _ _

It's the same for girls and _ _ _ _.

Answering your questions

  • headliceWhy does your head feel itchy when you have head lice?
    • The head lice bite into your scalp to get out your lovely blood for their dinner and the bite feels itchy. It's your skin's way of telling you about it.
  • When is the most likely time of year to get head lice and why?
    • You can get head lice any time of the year.
  • What kinds of shampoos or lotions are around that kill head lice and where do you get them?
    • There are several different treatments.  Ask your chemist, your school or the Local Council Environmental Health Unit to tell you what is working at the moment before you buy any.

(In South Australia you can sometimes get the stuff from the school or from your local Council.)

Can you put these sentences in the right order?

  1. Use special shampoo.
  2. Wash clothes and pillow cases in hot water.
  3. Use special shampoo about one week later.
  4. Read the instructions on the bottle of special shampoo.
  5. Get someone to check your hair.
  6. Put soft toys out in the sun.

Now I must go and get someone to check my hair!

Adults can get head lice too you know so maybe you'd better check your mum's hair as well!

I feel all itchy just thinking about head lice. YUK!

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim

Head lice won't make you sick and they don't pass diseases.  You can get them at any time of the year.  Start a regular family head check to make sure that you don't get these unwelcome visitors in your house.


Answers to questions.
The sentences go in the order:
5, 4, 1, 2, 6, 3.
Were you right?

And the missing words - nice, twice, toys, boys.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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