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Can I get head lice from the swimming pool?


No.  Data show that head lice can survive under water for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool. Head lice have been seen to hold tightly to human hair and not let go when submerged under water. Chlorine levels found in pool water do not kill head lice.


Head lice may be spread by sharing towels or other items that have been in contact with an infested person's hair, although such spread is uncommon. Children should be taught not to share towels, hair brushes, and similar items either at poolside or in the changing room.



Can my pets get head lice (dogs, cats, rabbits)?


Thankfully dogs, cats, and other pets do not get head lice and do not play a role in the spread of head lice.



Do I need to wash everything in hot water?


No.  Head lice can survive under water for several hours, putting items that have recently (in the recent 48 hours) been exposed to head lice in the dryer on the highest heat setting for 40 minutes.  Vacuuming couch and car seats and placing combs, brushes, and hair ties in a ziplock bag and put in the freezer for 48 hours. Dryer, Freezer or Vacuum to clean properly and avoid re-infestation.


School takes the blame!


High exposure is any prolonged period of time for kids to be together outside of school, summer camp, sleep overs, Holiday breaks (Thanksgiving/Christmas).  Most commonly, at the end of summer, kids go back to school with head lice, either not realizing they have it or they’ve been treating with over-the-counter products and do not realize that they still have it.



Is infestation with head lice reportable to health departments?


Most health departments do not require reporting of head lice infestation. However, it may be beneficial for the sake of others to share information with school nurses, parents of classmates, and others about contact with head lice.


I don't like my school's "no-nit" policy; can CDC do something?


No. CDC is not a regulatory agency. School head lice policies often are determined by local school boards. Local health departments may have guidelines that address school head lice policies; check with your local and state health departments to see if they have such recommendations.

More on: Head Lice Information for Schools


How did my child get head lice?


Head-to-head contact with an already infested person is the most common way to get head lice. Head-to-head contact is common during play at school, at home, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).

Although uncommon, head lice can be spread by sharing clothing or belongings. This happens when lice crawl, or nits attached to shed hair hatch, and get on the shared clothing or belongings. Examples include:

  • sharing clothing (hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms) or articles (hair ribbons, barrettes, combs, brushes, towels, stuffed animals) recently worn or used by an infested person;
  • or lying on a bed, couch, pillow, or carpet that has recently been in contact with an infested person.


Is itching a sign or symptom?


For those who have head lice, only around 40% will itch.  Itching is not always a symptom.  We itch due to a histamine reaction the saliva of the louse (bug), similar to that of a mosquito bite.  Some of us are affected a great deal, while others do not have much of a reaction at all.


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