Head lice

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Key points to remember

  • head lice are small, flat insects (about 2 to 3 millimetres long) that live and lay eggs on the human scalp - the scalp provides food and warmth for the eggs to hatch
  • head lice are sometimes called nits, kutis, kutu bugs, utu or riha
  • they are a common problem all over the world and cause concern and frustration for parents, children and young people
  • anyone can catch head lice - catching them has nothing to do with poor hygiene 
  • head lice spread by crawling from the hair of one person to another
  • they are usually spread amongst school children before spreading to their family members at home
  • if you find live head lice or eggs on your child’s scalp, treat your child and check everyone in the house
  • treatment of head lice is usually by chemical / herbal treatments, and physical methods (wet combing)
  • wet combing with conditioner and a fine tooth nit comb alone can be effective if done properly
  • if you choose to use a chemical or herbal treatment, speak to your pharmacist, doctor or nurse for advice about what treatment to use and how to use it
  • never use flyspray, kerosene or treatments intended for animals – these may harm children and adults
This page last reviewed 25 February 2014
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2014
Printed on 26 October 2014. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand