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Head Lice Fact Sheet

Last Updated: 18/08/2015

To view the latest information on head lice from the Health Department website click here


Head lice

What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny insect parasites that live on your head and feed on your scalp (the skin covering your head).

They reproduce by laying their eggs (nits) on your hair shaft (the part of your hair closest to the scalp).

Head lice are not dangerous, do not carry diseases, and are not a sign of poor hygiene (cleanliness).

How do you get head lice?

Head lice are spread by head-to-head contact with another person who has head lice. This kind of contact includes doing group work at school, playing, or hugging.

Head lice can run from one head to another in seconds. Head lice cannot fly, jump or swim, but they can sometimes swing from one hair to another.

Brushes and combs are unlikely to transfer head lice or their eggs, as these are very hard to detach from the hair shaft.

Head lice are not spread through bed linen, clothing or head gear (hats and helmets) as they do not leave the scalp unless they are moving to another scalp, or unless they are dead or dying.

Signs and symptoms

Your scalp may itch as your skin reacts to the saliva of the head lice. This itchiness can take weeks to develop. If you have had head lice before, your skin may become less sensitive and there may be little or no itch.

You may also be able to see head lice crawling in your hair, although they can be difficult to spot as they move quickly.

  • Adult lice are usually dark brown and about 2 to 3 mm long.
  • Hatchlings (young lice) are often a lighter brown colour and about 1 to 2 mm long.
  • Eggs will be attached to the hair shaft. They can be very tiny and hard to see, especially newly-laid eggs close to the scalp. They are grey-white and about the size of a grain of salt. 



To read more visit the Health Department website click here  

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