What Causes Head Lice?

Direct Head To Head Contact

There is some confusion about what causes head lice. It’s important to understand how lice are spread so that you can protect yourself from them and also prevent spreading them to others in the event you do contact them. It’s also important to understand what does not cause lice so you don’t end up limiting your activities unnecessarily.

What Causes Head Lice?

Where do head lice originate? You can only get head lice from someone else that has them. You can get lice through either direct or indirect contact with a person that has lice, although you are much more likely to get them through direct contact.

Direct contact – Most often, what causes head lice is direct contact with someone that has lice. Since lice do not jump or fly, your head has to be very close to the head of the person that has lice in order for you to get them. Head lice are easily spread among children in daycare, preschool, and elementary school because they frequently sit and play very close together. They are easily spread among members of the same household for the same reason.

Indirect contact – While lice are most often contracted through direct contact with someone that has them, they can also be spread through indirect contact. It is possible to get head lice if you share items like hats, scarves, pillows, headphones, combs, brushes, and hair accessories with someone that has lice. Head lice can only live for a day or two on such objects, though, because they need to feed regularly on human blood in order to survive. The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you need to share safety headgear like a helmet, go ahead and share it rather than going without safety gear out of concern about getting lice since transmission through indirect contact is rather rare.

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What Doesn’t Cause Head Lice?

While it’s important to understand what causes head lice, it is also important to understand what does not cause lice. Lice are not caused by:

  • Poor hygiene
  • A dirty house
  • Not bathing frequently enough 
  • Having long hair, dirty hair, or not washing your hair frequently enough
  • Being outdoors in the woods, weeds, dirt, etc. (unless you are there with someone that has lice)
  • Pets (only humans carry head lice; pets may carry other insects, such as fleas, but they do not carry or spread head lice)
  • Being in the same room as someone that has them – you have to be very close to a person to get lice from them since lice do not jump or fly

Remember head lice always originate from another person that has them. If you have lice, you got them from close contact with another person that had them.

How to Get Rid of Head Lice

Now that you know what causes head lice, you probably want to know how to get rid of them. Since lice are highly contagious, it’s important to get rid of them as soon as you can so that you don’t spread them to other people around you. There are a number of different products available to kill lice, some of which you can buy over the counter, and some of which require a prescription from a doctor. For most people, over-the-counter products work just as well as prescription products. They are usually more affordable and generally carry a lower risk of unwanted side effects, too. Our favorite over-the-counter product for getting rid of head lice is the Fairy Tales Lice Good-bye Lice Removal Kit. It’s safe and non-toxic and effectively kills adult lice, and loosens the eggs (nits) so they can be easily removed. To learn more, just follow the link.