The Best Method For Detecting Head Lice Don’t be alarmed. Head lice are very common! Researchers found that wet-combing identified active infestations in 90 percent of the cases, compared with about 29 percent for visual inspections. [Consumer Reports Health]


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  1. shoelace414 says:

    for some reason after reading that my head now itches.

    • edwardso says:

      @shoelace414: mine too. I was fortunate enough not to have it as a child but their were many close calls with friends

    • nakedscience says:

      @shoelace414: lol me too. they won’t kill you and are more annoying than anything else, but gaaaaah, talk about annoying and lame. i always feel bad when kids get it, because most certainly they will be teased and called “dirty and unwashed”. oh, wait, that already happened in the first comment! SURPRISE!

  2. HogwartsAlum says:

    They’re yucky. And I’ve heard that they are developing resistance to the pesticides that are mostly used to control them.

    I guess if we get them we’ll have to dunk our heads in DDT.

    • Brontide says:

      @HogwartsAlum: Easier just to drown them in conditioner ( seriously it’s an effectivy remedy ). Kind of like bleach since it’s not something they can become resistant to over time.


      • nakedscience says:

        @snowmoon: And then you’ll have nice, soft hair!

      • welsey says:

        The conditioner/mayo/olive oil thing will work but you still have to comb them out immediately. They’ll only be “drowned” for a little while, long enough to comb them out easily, but they aren’t dead. I used mayo once when I got it (I work with kids!!! never again will I wear my hair down around them) and I had good luck, but I also used it as a secondary treatment to Nix.

  3. ElizabethD says:

    Wow, “ThickSkinned”:

    My daughter’s former school — a VERY clean, well-run, all-girls suburban parochial school catering to upper-middle-class families — had repeated outbreaks of head lice. My son and I got them from my daughter. I ended up having to cut my daughter’s waist-length thick hair to chin length (*sob*) because I couldn’t get the nit comb through it! It was quite an ordeal. But we were advised not to associate head lice with unsanitary living conditions. That would be like saying only filthy unwashed people get head colds.

    • aguacarbonica says:


      In my opinion, the association of “suburban,” “parochial,” and “upper-middle-class” with the pinnacle of cleanliness is worse than suggesting only dirty people get lice.

      Perhaps I missed something in the devoweling of ThickSkinned’s post, since I can’t tell what “nn-rn” means. But if not, I am a little chagrined by the implication that rich people are inherently clean whilst poor = dirty.

      • nakedscience says:

        @aguacarbonica: Well, he basically implied that only dirty people get lice (when, in fact, lice like a clean head of hair, because it’s easier to latch on to). ElizabethD’s implication that her school was clean because it is upper-middle-class isn’t much better, however.

        • aguacarbonica says:

          @nakedscience: I would say that it’s worse since “dirty people” is not an oppressed social class, even if it is a condition for which people are often stereotyped.

      • nakedscience says:

        @aguacarbonica: and it was urine-smelling you couldn’t decipher. because all dirty kids smell like urine and all kids are always clean, of course!

  4. AnxiousDemographic says:

    Scary, but not as much as harder-to-kill bedbugs.

    Now when I go traveling I literally bring a flashlight and examine the floor under the head of the bed.

    • oneandone says:

      @AnxiousDemographic: You can also lift the mattress off the boxspring (just enough to look – you don’t have to remove it) and check for bedbug stains. Sometimes they are easier to see there.

      Bedbugs are terrifying.

      • rpm773 says:

        @oneandone: Agreed. I’m kind of surprised no hotels have tried to play off of this yet. Imagine the first hotel to declare itself “bed-bug free, guaranteed.”

        That’s a million dollar ad idea right there.

        • oneandone says:

          @rpm773: If you could pull it off…. I think you’d need a big investment in constantly checking to make sure your property had no bed bugs – and be willing to destroy any beds / bedding / carpet / etc that got infested. But it might come to that.

          Anyone going to the national bed bug summit? EPA’s having a public meeting! Free & all you have to do is be one of the first 135 people there.


          • rpm773 says:

            @oneandone: I think you’d need a big investment in constantly checking to make sure your property had no bed bugs

            Heh. Today: “bed-bug free, guaranteed.” Tomorrow: favored to win Consumerist’s WCIA tourney

  5. ThickSkinned says:

    Yh, vry cmmn mng th nwshd, drty ppl. Srsly, ds nyn rmmbr nrml, nn-rn smllng chldrn gttng hd lc n schl?

    • nakedscience says:

      @ThickSkinned: Uh, yeah, I got head lice once or twice, as did my sisters. And we were clean children (well, as clean as any child can be). Clean children who also rode the bus The thought that head lice is only common among the “dirty and unwashed” is false and ignorant.

    • nakedscience says:

      @ThickSkinned: To with:

      !Anybody can get head lice but they are much rarer in adults.
      Head louse infection is a problem of the whole community, not just the schools.
      Infection is common during school holidays as well as during term time. Parents start to worry more about lice when children go back to school because they think the lice are being caught there.
      A lot of infections are caught from close family and friends in the home and community, not from the school.
      It’s not just children who have them; adults get them too.
      It’s often said that head lice prefer clean, short hair. In fact, they probably don’t much care whether hair is dirty or clean, short or long. Short hair may make it easier for them to get from one head to another.~


      I just LOVE when ignorant people think they know what they are talking about….

    • pop top says:

      @ThickSkinned: What an ignorant, backwards thing to say.

    • Ratty says:

      @ThickSkinned: Head lice prefer cleaner environments. There were plenty of children who got them who were clean and kempt. They spread remarkably easily.

    • acklenheights says:


      “To A Louse”

      By Robert Burns

      On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church

      Ha! whare ye gaun’ ye crowlin ferlie?
      Your impudence protects you sairly;
      I canna say but ye strunt rarely
      Owre gauze and lace,
      Tho faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
      On sic a place.

      Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
      Detested, shunn’d by saunt an sinner,
      How daur ye set your fit upon her–
      Sae fine a lady!
      Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
      On some poor body.

      Swith! in some beggar’s hauffet squattle;
      There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle;
      Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle;
      In shoals and nations;
      Whare horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
      Your thick plantations.

      Now haud you there! ye’re out o’ sight,
      Below the fatt’rils, snug an tight,
      Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
      Till ye’ve got on it–
      The vera tapmost, tow’rin height
      O’ Miss’s bonnet.

      My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
      As plump an grey as onie grozet:
      O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
      Or fell, red smeddum,
      I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,
      Wad dress your droddum!

      I wad na been surpris’d to spy
      You on an auld wife’s flainen toy
      Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
      On’s wyliecoat;
      But Miss’s fine Lunardi! fye!
      How daur ye do’t?

      O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
      An set your beauties a’ abread!
      Ye little ken what cursed speed
      The blastie’s makin!
      Thae winks an finger-ends, I dread,
      Are notice takin!

      O wad some Power the giftie gie us
      To see oursels as ithers see us!
      It wad frae monie a blunder free us
      An foolish notion:
      What airs in dress an gait wad lea’es us,
      An ev’n devotion!

    • everfade says:

      @ThickSkinned: So I take it disemvowelments allow you to keep the “y”

      A E I O U and sometimes Y

  6. Odaecom says:

    The best way to treat head lice is shave one side of the effected area, put rubbing alcohol on the hair, light on fire, then hit the little suckers with a hammer as they run to the freshly shaved side. Note this also works for treating crabs.

  7. rpm773 says:

    I thought the best method for detecting head lice was to have the school nurses pick through your hair with a toothpick in the middle of math class, with one audibly announcing to the other “We’ve got one” when he/she gets a hit.

    • Julia789 says:

      @rpm773: LOL I remember that. We also had a nurse in the 1980’s who would make us stand in line and shake our hair out with our fingers over a piece of black construction paper. If anything showed up on the paper, we were sent home to be shampooed with toxic sludge.

      My poor little brother had a mild case of dandruff, and had the “We’ve got one!” call as he shook his fingers through his hair over the black paper. Poor kid. My mother panicked and bought the chemicals and doused him in them, and disinfected our entire house. She washed all pillows in hot water with bleach. Then the barber later noticed he had mild dandruff and that is probably what showed up on the paper. Poor kid.

    • parkavery says:

      @rpm773: Ah yes. Those were the days, only our nurse used a tongue depressor to poke around our heads.

      Almost makes me miss elementary school.

  8. ZoeSchizzel says:

    Best way to treat head lice — Use a lice shampoo. Use the comb as directed. Dry the hair and then use a straightening iron on the hair once a day for at least a week. Incinerates the nits and you don’t usually have to cut a child’s long hair.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We’ve used a battery-operated electric “zapper” lice comb that works pretty well. Lice shampoos are pretty well useless. The most effective method, though, is still the old-fashioned way: fine-combing by a sharp-eyed mom.

  10. momma_andrea says:

    My kids’ daycare had an outbreak. I am not a big fan of the chemicals and heard they didn’t work well anyway because of resistance. Instead, I coated their hair with mayonaisse. Like saturated it. Then, I put a shower cap on and a nylon cap over that. The kids had to have that on for about an hour. Then, I took the caps off and combed with a nit comb. All the lice were dead and were easy to remove. It supposedly suffocates even the nits. Just to be safe, I followed up in a week and treated again.

  11. TurboWagon00 says:

    PSA: Gasoline is not an effective treatment. Unless it catches on fire. Then it’s probably too effective.

  12. creative differences says:

    i was a teacher, and the students in my class would sometimes get pesticide-resistant lice.

    i created an extremely effective way to get rid of them:

    overload your hair with gel or mousse (whichever you have on hand), along with a heavy coating of hairspray – lots of it, so your hair is over-saturated. don’t miss any spots.

    leave the products on for a couple of hours and then thoroughly wash it all out. you will be able to see the dead lice wash down the drain.

    it’s a good idea to get someone to pick out your nits afterward, but most of these will be killed by the hair goo along with the lice. supposedly, nothing will kill nits… but this treatment does.

    repeat the treatment in a week or so. that’s it. honestly, i’d call it miraculous.

    i have no idea why it works. perhaps the hair products are toxic to them, and maybe to us, but it’s definitely healthier for you and your children than regular lice treatments. and loads cheaper.