Your child comes home itching and scratching their head, so you look and find head lice. Yikes! One of the first things you may wonder is, where did the lice come from? How is it even possible my family could be infested?
Head lice have been pestering humans for thousands of years and have even been found preserved with mummies. If you are interested in the scientific history of head lice, Scientific American has a fascinating blog post called “Of lice and men: an itchy history” here.
For most of us though, we are less concerned about the evolution of head lice, and more concerned about where they came from today. The answer is that they very likely came from contact with another person who has head lice.
Lice do not fly or jump, but they will crawl very fast. They have legs that are designed to cling to strands of hair so they can move from one head to another. Have you watched how children interact with each other? Sitting or playing with their heads closely together, it is easy for lice to move from one host to another. Parents may contract lice while hugging their child. They can pass from one person to another while sleeping in the same bed.
Lice prefer a warm, dark environment. They won’t stay at the ends of your hair but will move close to the scalp where they can feed and lay eggs.
Head lice can transfer through shared hair brushes, hats, helmets and other items that come in contact with hair. Head lice cannot live longer than about 36 hours without feeding, so they will move to a human host as quickly as possible if they are still attached to a hair strand that is left behind in these items.
Unlike fleas, you won’t get head lice from pets. Lice are host specific, so any louse that is living on your furry friend will not be interested in you. In addition, your head lice won’t want to feed on pets either.
Why can’t we permanently get rid of lice?
Unfortunately, there are people who have trouble getting rid of their infestation. They may be using traditional products that don’t work against lice, commonly referred to now as “super lice”. For some families, treating head lice can feel overwhelming or financially draining so they choose not to treat their infestation. Thankfully there are now easy-to-use, affordable, over-the-counter solutions that are effective at killing head lice such as Licefreee!.
You can take some steps to help prevent a lice infestation in your home. Check out our head lice prevention tips.