How Do We Get Head Lice?

In most cases head lice are transmitted from one human to another, primarily through head-to-head contact. While most references report them as most commonly found on children ranging from ages three to eleven, never research shows the largest number of cases are found in children between the ages of nine and sixteen. 

  • Head-to-head contact is the most common way to transmit head lice.

While it is possible to pick up hitchhikers (an abandoned strand of hair with a louse still attached), it is suspected that less than 2% of all active cases are actually contracted in this manner.

Lice eggs, or nits as they are commonly referred to, also are of little concern as they cannot reattach themselves to a new head of hair. Furthermore, it should be noted that majority of abandoned nits are damaged and never reach the stage of hatching, thus reducing the chances of exposure through this means. Even if they do manage to hatch, they require blood almost immediately or will starve to death.

  • A nit "louse egg" is attached to the hair shaft with a fixative glue. It is a cement-like substance will not dissolve and prevents nits from falling off the hair.   

An adult louse rarely leaves the security of a warm, generous host unless it has already identified a newer and more desirable environment to move onto. Since head lice feed every three to four hours they are unlikely to willingly leave their food supply. It´s also worth noting that lice prefer round shafts of hair because it´s easier to wrap their claw like feet around it.

  • The hair of African-Americans is generally oval, a shapeless maneuverable and thus less desirable to the louse.

Lice are also found curly hair less appealing. It´s important to remember that although the shape of certain hair shafts reduces the risk of getting head lice, it does not make the person immune. With an increased number of interracial children, hair textures are changing, resulting in more cases of head lice among select racial groups than previously experienced.

  • Lice are more commonly found on girls than boys, presumably because their mass and longer length offer more secure and attractive breeding ground.   

Additionally, girls tend to be more physically affectionate than boys, resulting in more head-to-head contact. Longer hair, often found in girls, becomes a bridge of opportunity, offering a mode of transportation from one head to another. The risk is increased if the child´s hair is loose. The smaller volume of hair on most boys allows for more sun exposure, causing the sink to have a tougher texture and thus be a less inviting feeding ground for lice. Since head lice are lazy, they tend to look for a head that requires less work to obtain their needed food supply. I can't emphasize enough that while these reasons allow for more cases of head lice to be found on the gender and among certain races than others, it's no guarantee individuals in the less likely groups will be immune from them.

  • How can we prevent lice? By checking your child's head every week, you will help prevent lice infestation in your home. Head lice will survive for only 24-48 hours once they are not on the host (head).