What are Head Lice?


Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are parasites responsible for head lice infestations. They grow, live, and breed solely on the scalp and feed on blood. Lice do not fly or jump. They move about by crawling and clinging to hair with claw-like legs. Lice eggs are called nits and look like oval white cylinders. They are often confused for dandruff. Adult lice have a white-grey appearance in colour, which changes to red-brown after feeding.1

Head lice are a common problem among preschoolers and schoolchildren. Transmission occurs mainly through direct head-to-head contact. Other modes of transmission may include sharing headwear, brushes, and other objects that touch the head. There has also been a recent increase in lice transmission through children holding their heads together to take selfies.

Here are some common myths about head lice2:

  • 59 per cent of respondents believe head lice can become resistant to certain forms of treatment
  • 59 per cent believe head lice can be contracted as a result of “jumping”
  • 38 per cent believe an individual is more likely to contract head lice due to poor Hygiene
  • 35 per cent believe head lice carry diseases and are a serious health risk
  • 33 per cent believe insecticides are necessary to eliminate head lice
  • 30 per cent believe if you bathe every day, you are less likely to get head lice
  • 27 per cent believe you can suffocate head lice
  • 22 per cent believe those who come from low-income families are more likely to contract head lice


  1. Frankowski BL, Weiner LB, American Academy of Pediatrics American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health and the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Head lice. Pediatrics. 2002;110:638–43.
  2. Marketing/Leger Corporate Reputation Survey 2015