Head Lice



Head lice are spread by head to head or hair to hair contact. It can also be spread by sharing combs, brushes, hats, and other personal items.

Risk Factors

Head lice are more common in young children. Things that may raise the risk of head lice are:

  • Sharing combs, brushes, hats, and other personal items
  • Head to head or hair to hair contact with people who may have lice



Some people with head lice do not have any symptoms. People who do may have:

  • Itchiness
  • A crawling feeling on the scalp
  • Breaks in the skin


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The head and scalp will be examined for lice and lice eggs (nits).



Treating head lice involves removing eggs and killing lice so that they cannot lay eggs. Treatment may be difficult. In some regions, lice have become resistant to many commonly used medicines.

Options are:

  • Over the counter or prescription shampoos, lotions, or creams—more than one treatment is often needed
  • Removing the lice and eggs with a specially designed comb or tweezers

Steps will also need to be taken to lower the risk of the lice returning. Linens, towels, and clothing worn by the person will need to be washed. Anything that cannot be washed should be vacuumed.


To lower the risk of head lice:

  • Do not share combs, brushes, hats, or other personal items with people who may have lice.
  • Avoid close personal contact with people who may have lice.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.