Headlice are small, whitish to reddish brown wingless, blood sucking insects similar to the size and shape of a sesame seed. They attach themselves to the hair shaft where the female louse lay their eggs called a nit and move to the scalp to feed.

Headlice can only survive on humans and are spread from direct hair to hair contact moving from head to head without discrimination. This happens when people play, cuddle or work very close together. Headlice do not have wings or jumping legs so they cannot fly or jump from head to head, they can only crawl but cannot survive off a human host for more than 24 hours.

The symptoms of headlice include an unusually itchy head, but headlice do not always make the head itchy so careful inspection is required to find them.

How to check for Headlice:

  1. Comb any type of white hair conditioner on to dry, brushed (detangled) hair. This stuns the lice making it difficult for them to grip the hair or crawl around.
  2. Now comb sections of the hair with a fine tooth headlice comb. 
  3. Wipe the conditioner from the comb onto a paper towel or tissue or into a container of water.
  4. Look on the tissue or in the water and on the comb for lice and eggs.
  5. Repeat the combing for every part of the head at least four or five times. Life cycle Headlice live on a host for approximately 30 days.

The female louse can lay up to 100 eggs which only require one mating to be fertilised. Eggs further than 1-2 cm from the scalp are usually empty cases, which remain attached to the hair even though they are dead. Headlice are able to reproduce in 10 days and live eggs hatch another 7 to 10 days later.


At the request and expense of a school, Council can arrange a nurse to do headlice checks. Some schools have trained staff to undertake these checks. When using a headlice lotion it is important that you follow the directions on the bottle. Only the pillowcase requires specific laundering and should be washed in hot water or dried in a clothes dryer on hot heat. There is no evidence to suggest that you need to clean the house or classroom.