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Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is pediculosis?

Pediculosis is a lice infestation of the hairy areas on the body. Lice are tiny bugs that bite into the skin and suck blood to live and grow. The most common areas of infestation are the scalp or genitals. Eyebrows, eyelashes, chest hair, or underarm hair may also be infested.

What do lice look like?

There are 3 stages in the life of lice: nit (egg), nymph, and adult. Adult lice lay nits and stick them to hair strands or clothing fibers. Nits look like tiny pieces of dandruff that cannot be brushed off. Nymphs hatch from nits in 7 to 10 days. They are clear in color and feed on scalp blood. Nymphs quickly grow into adults. Adult lice can be tan or gray or a darker color when filled with blood.

How are lice spread?

Lice are spread from person to person by sharing items, such as hats, brushes, or headphones. Scalp lice can spread quickly. It is a common problem in schools and daycare centers. A person with genital lice can infest another person during sex.

What are the signs and symptoms of lice?

How are lice treated?

Medical shampoos, creams, or lotions will kill the lice. They may be prescription or over-the-counter. Ask your healthcare provider for help choosing the right lice medicine. Do not use lice medicine on children younger than 2 years old. Instead, use regular shampoo and pick the nits or lice off the scalp and hair. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other oil products to treat lice.

How can I manage my symptoms?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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