Our team of professionals and staff believe that informed patients are better equipped to make decisions regarding their health and well-being. For your personal use, we have created an extensive patient library covering an array of educational topics, which can be found on the side of each page. Browse through these diagnoses and treatments to learn more about topics of interest to you.
* This section is provided free of charge to you from the American Academy of Dermatology's library. We do not treat all conditions listed here, nor do we perform all treatments discussed in this section. This is purely meant to be a reliable resource for patients with an interest in, or questions about, a wide array of dermatologic topics.
As always, you can contact our office to answer any questions or concerns.
Head lice: Overview
Also called Pediculus humanus capitis
Having head lice does not mean you are dirty. Most people get head lice when they have head-to-head contact with someone who has head lice. Head-to-head contact lets the lice crawl from one head to another head. The lice do not care whether the person has squeaky-clean hair or dirty hair. The lice are looking for human blood, which they need to survive.
Millions of people get head lice each year. Head-lice infestations are especially common in schools. In the United States, it is believed that about 6 to 12 million children between 3 and 12 years of age get head lice each year.
Head lice are not known to spread disease, but having head lice can make your scalp extremely itchy. If you scratch a lot, it can cause sores on the scalp that may lead to an infection. Some people lose sleep because the itch is so intense.
Treatment, which most people can do at home, usually gets rid of head lice. If you have trouble getting rid of the lice or have an infection from scratching, you should see a dermatologist.
Burkhart CN, Burkhart CG. “Fomite transmission in head lice.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2007; 56(6):1044-1047.
Canyon, DV, Speare R, et al. “Spatial and kinetic factors for the transfer of head lice (Pediculus capitis) between hairs.” J Invest Dermatol 2002; 119(3):629-631.
Frankowski BL, Bocchini JA. “Head Lice.” Pediatrics. 2010; 126(2):392-403.
Jacobson CC, Abel EA. “Parasitic infestations.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2007; 56(6):1026-1043.
Ko CJ, Elston DM. “Pediculosis.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 50(1):1-12.