How to Prevent Head Lice

Four Methods:Avoiding Contact with LicePreventing Lice in Public SpacesPreventing Lice Around Your HomeTreating Head Lice

Head lice is quite common and no one is immune to being infested, regardless of hair type, colour, gender, age, or living conditions. In short, the best way to prevent head lice is to keep hair from coming into contact with others and inspecting your hair and home for signs of lice.

Method 1
Avoiding Contact with Lice

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    Avoid direct head-to-head contact. The common theory as to why children are more susceptible to head lice than adults is that children are less likely to respect personal space. They may also be exposed to situations where head-to-head contact is unavoidable like class nap times or sitting close together side-by-side at their desks. It's as simple as two kids touching heads while leaning over a colouring book. Try to leave space between you and others in order to prevent the spreading of head lice.
    • Contrary to popular belief, head lice do not jump. They actually crawl very fast from one head to another on a strand of hair. While lice eggs are laid on the shaft of a hair with cement-like glue.
    • Ask children to try their best to avoid head-to-head contact. That might mean avoiding games or activities that need them to have head contact with each other.
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    Don't share items that touch the head. Lice can also travel onto any items or surfaces that may have come into contact with the head. Hats, glasses, scarves, combs and hairbrushes, earbuds and headsets, and even chairs can be sites where can lice can jump from and to your own head.
    • Even within families, it's good practice for each family member to have their own hairbrush or comb.
    • In some situations such as school closets, clothes, hats, and scarves are often stored together out in the open. Avoid exposing these items by either keeping your belongings with you or storing them away in a bag or backpack.
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    Keep long hair tied up in a ponytail, braid, or bun. Long hair can sometimes reach beyond personal space since some hair can grow well past someone's shoulders or even fall off and get onto other people's space. Keeping hair tied prevents your hair from touching others.
    • Use hairspray to keep stray hairs in place.
    • Never share hair ties, barrettes or clips with others.
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    Use tea tree oil or lavender oil on your scalp. This is a great way natural remedy to prevent head lice. These oils will act as repellents and keep head lice away. Use only a few drops on your scalp per day or dilute a few drops in a spray bottle and spritz it in your hair.
    • Tea tree oil can be quite drying so only use as directed on the label.
    • Tea tree oil can also be used to treat and remove head lice.
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    Regularly check for signs of head lice every week. Prevention also means being on the look out for possible head lice infestations. Caught early enough, you can disrupt the life cycle of lice, making treatment faster and easier. There are several ways to check for head lice which look like brownish-grey caramel sesame seeds and eggs which often look like brown coloured dots:
    • Lather your hair in conditioner and comb through your hair with a head lice removal comb. Every few passes, wipe the comb out on a paper towel and inspect for brownish-coloured dots or eggs or even actual bugs.[1]
    • Inspect your scalp, especially where hair shafts meet the scalp under direct sunlight or a bright lamp.
    • Get someone to check around your ear, nape of the neck and the crown of your head for any signs of lice.
    • Inspect your clothing for signs of lice.

Method 2
Preventing Lice in Public Spaces

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    Ensure belongings stay separate from each other. Whether you're a teacher at a school or working in an office with many others, it's important to keep your belongings separate from others. This decreases the likelihood head lice or any other pest or illness is spread through touching jackets, hats, or bags.
    • If you are a teacher or building a classroom, ensure that your classroom's cloakroom or closet allows for plenty of space between each student's belongings. This might mean spacing out clothes hooks or assigning individual cubbies or boxes for students to stow away their things.
    • Avoid hanging your jacket or storing your bag in a communal closet. Some places like restaurants, bars, and hotels offer you a coat check. Rather than checking your things, you could bring your things with you, or ask that your jacket be stored away from others.
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    Store belongings in plastic bags. Things like hairbrushes, hats, scarves, and jackets could be placed in plastic bags when you go out in public, especially if you're sending your kids to school. This keeps the lice out and plastic bags are easy to throw away before going home.
    • To be extra cautious, you can throw in your belongings in the freezer after coming home. Head lice cannot survive in low temperatures.[2]
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    Clean your belongings when you get home. Use disinfectant or soap to kill germs and prevent lice from crawling into the home. Wipe down your bag or backpack and throw the clothes you wore outside into the washing machine.
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    Educate others about head lice prevention. It's not only important to do your part in preventing head lice from invading your home and your family, but it's also important to educate others on how to prevent and treat head lice.
    • Urge your school or community to make head lice prevention and education available. It's as easy as making an announcement about what head lice is and how to prevent it or making flyers and directing others to resources or treatments that they can access.

Method 3
Preventing Lice Around Your Home

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    Change and wash your bedding and clothes every week. Wash your bed linens and clothes in hot water that is at least 140°F (60°C) and dry them with heat as well. Heat is effective in killing lice and any eggs dropped from your head.[3]
    • Take non-machine washables to the dry cleaner. If you suspect you have lice or have been exposed to lice, let your dry cleaner know so they can take the right precautionary measures when cleaning your garments.
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    Regularly wash or change combs, brushes, and hair ties. These items come into contact with your head on a daily basis. It's best to clean them once in a while or swap them for something new, especially hair ties.
    • Soak hairbrushes in diluted bleach or in close to boiling hot water for one hour. Be careful as some brushes may be made of plastic or materials that don't react well to bleach and heat.
    • Remove hair from hairbrushes regularly as well. This is also a good way to inspect to see if you can see any signs of lice or lice eggs.
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    Vacuum around your house regularly. Headboards, couches, and chairs are hotspots for lice to spread. Be sure to use a vacuum that has a disposable vacuum bag that you can throw away, especially if you've been exposed to head lice.
    • Lice won't stay too long or survive apart from the host as they need blood supply to feed and live. There's no need to invest in a powerful vacuum cleaner or spend too much time cleaning in order to prevent lice.[4]

Method 4
Treating Head Lice

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    Check to see if others in your area have lice. If you find out your child or student has lice, it's important to check to see if your family or other students have been infested. Let your family or classroom know about a possible lice infestation and urge them to get them checked.
    • If you find lice in your home, it's important to treat everything in your home to ensure the lice does not infest others in your family. Even the sheets and rooms of non-infested people must be cleaned.
    • If you're treating a child or student with lice, it's most likely you will have come in contact with lice as well. Get yourself checked for lice before, during, and after their treatments.
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    Wash all clothing worn in hot water. Remove all clothing worn by you or whoever is infested with head lice and wash all garments in the hottest water setting possible.
    • If a garment can't be washed, isolate it in a garbage for several days to weeks to ensure all lice is dead. Since there is nothing the lice can feed on, the lice will eventually die.
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    Apply lice medication. You can purchase over-the-counter or prescription lice medication at your local pharmacy which may sometimes be called pediculicide. Be careful to read and follow the instructions of the medication.
    • If you or whoever is infested with lice has long hair, you may need more than one bottle of medication.
    • Do not use shampoo or conditioner or wash your hair for 1 to 2 days after using lice medication.
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    Allow the lice medication 8 to 12 hours to work.[5] If you can still see lice moving around in your hair, do not retreat. It can take a while for the medication to kill all the lice.
    • If you still see lice moving around after 12 hours, call your health care professional. They may recommend you do a second round of treatment or prescribe you a different lice medication.
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    Comb your hair. Most lice medications will come with a comb or you can purchase a comb specifically made for checking for lice. Since all the lice are dead and you aren't able to wash your hair for the next few days, it's important to comb out the dead lice and eggs from your hair.
    • Flea combs for pets are a great alternative to lice combs.
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    Check and comb your hair regularly. Even if treatment was successful, it's important you comb your hair with a lice comb every 2 to 3 days after treatment to protect yourself from reinfestation.


  • Head lice has nothing to do with bad hygiene or income level.
  • Advocate for regular lice screening in your community, especially at schools and daycares. This will both educate and help prevent lice spreading in your community


  • When trying to prevent head lice, you should not use any chemical head lice treatments like Nix or RID. It only works for treating head lice, and these shampoos may have dangerous side-effects when used many times repeatedly.
  • Never use pet flea shampoo to prevent or treat lice. These products may not be safe for human or children use.

Article Info

Categories: Head Lice Treatments | Hair Loss and Scalp Conditions