How to Recognize Head Lice

Two Methods:Checking for Head Lice and NitsChecking for Symptoms

You might recognise whether you have head lice. Head lice are greyish brown insects that live on your scalp and feed on blood. Seek medical help for an examination if you feel itchiness very often and may also see little bugs come out of your hair as you itch.

Method 1
Checking for Head Lice and Nits

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    Use a fine-toothed louse comb to help identify living head lice. Head lice move quickly and avoid light, so a fine-toothed comb will be handy in a thorough examination.
    • You can check for lice with both dry or wet hair. If you're checking with wet hair, wash and condition your hair before going over you hair with a comb.
    • In order to check your hair with a fine-toothed comb, use these steps:
      • Use an ordinary brush to detangle hair
      • Switch to the fine-toothed comb and start combing at the front middle of the scalp
      • Comb the hair from the roots to the ends, examining the comb after each stroke
      • Do this over your entire head
    • People with thicker hair may want to look for lice after washing their hair. In this case, using conditioner, or one tablespoon of olive oil, may make running the nit comb through your hair easier.
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    Look for nits (head louse eggs) at the base of the hair shaft using the same technique. Nits don't move, so they'll be easier to spot. Pay careful attention to the areas behind the ears and near the base of the neck when checking for nits.
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    Use a magnifying glass to make identification of head lice easier. Dandruff and dirt can sometimes be mistaken for head lice.
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    If you find lice or nits, be sure to treat the person showing signs of head lice. You can treat them in the following way:
    • Try a non-prescription lotion or shampoo. Their main ingredient is often 1% permethrin. Apply the lotion of shampoo as directed, waiting 8 to 12 hours and then checking for active lice again.
    • Try a prescription strength lotion or shampoo. Malathion 0.5% may be prescribed in cases where non-prescription lotions or shampoos do not have the desired efficacy. It is supposed to be left in the hair for a period of 12 hours.
    • Make sure the lice don't spread:
      • Wash all clothing and bedding in hot water immediately
      • Remove any lice and eggs you come out of the person's hair
      • Do not share clothing, especially articles like hats that are worn on the head

Method 2
Checking for Symptoms

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    Look for the following symptoms a tickling feeling or an itching sensation in your hair. It's pretty much what it sounds like. Humans are allergic to the (very small) amounts of saliva that lice inject into the skin in order to retrieve blood.[1] If you have intense itchiness in your scalp area, check for head lice.
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    Look for sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria normally found on a person’s skin.
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    Look for small red bumps on the scalp. These bumps are caused when the lice farm blood from your scalp. They may ooze or become crusty.[2]


  • Adult head lice will appear darker in color on the heads of people with dark hair.
  • A prescription is not always required for medications used to treat head lice. Over-the-counter medications are generally all that is needed.
  • Prevention is the best cure. The following steps will help you avoid a head lice infestation:

    • Vacuum furniture and floors, particularly where an infested person sat or slept. However, re-infestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing is unlikely.
    • Avoid contact with carpets, couches, beds, pillows, or stuffed animals that have been in contact with an infested person.
    • Do not share clothing such as coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, hats, scarves, or barrettes.
    • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs that may be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. They are not necessary to control head lice.


  • Itching, or pruritus, is a common outcome of a head lice infestation. Care should be taken to avoid damaging the skin with excessive scratching.

Article Info

Categories: Health Hygiene | Head Lice Treatments