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Lice are very small, wingless parasitic insects that feed on the blood of their prey. They can spread easily by anyone who comes in contact with others especially school and work environments. As such, one of the most common places for lice to spread is by schoolchildren because an infected child will come in contact with a lot of people and personal belongings, toys and other objects by which the lice can be spread. There are several different types of lice including head lice, body lice and pubic lice, and personal hygiene has nothing to do with how easily this parasitic insect can spread.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Lice

Lice is contracted when someone comes into contact either with the lice themselves or with lice eggs. The eggs typically hatch within a week. The lice are unable to fly and they cannot walk on the ground, so instead they spread by way of head to head contact, body to body contact, proximity of belongings, items shared between friends or between family members, sexual contact and through contact with furniture that has been contaminated.

The greatest complication associated with lice is the ease at which it can be transmitted. Someone who has contracted a head lice infection can spread it to virtually anyone that they come in contact with unless the proper treatment is sought immediately. Additionally, someone who has lice who scratches vigorously due to itching could potentially break skin and injure themselves. There are definitely complications to consider, making it essential that someone with lice or someone at risk of getting lice seek medical help as soon as possible.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Lice

The most common signs and symptoms that are associated with lice include: intense itching and irritation on the skin or scalp or in the hair. Adult lice may be found on the scalp or on the body. Head lice can be found most commonly behind the ears as well as along the back of the neck. Though most lice are smaller than a strawberry seed, they can be up to 3 millimeters in size. Lice eggs, known as nits, may also be found in the hair especially around the shafts of the hair. They can be mistaken as being dandruff, but they do not come out of hair as easily as dandruff can.

Diagnosing lice is not difficult with the help of a physician. The physician will typically examine the head and body for lice with a magnifying lens. A special light, known as a Woods light, is used to look for the lice eggs because under the light they look pale blue and are therefore easier to see. Head lice is typically diagnosed after an adult louse is found on the scalp. Body lice is typically diagnosed by finding eggs on the body or in clothing or bed sheets. Public lice is diagnosed when lice are found moving in the pubic area or other areas where there is coarse hair such as the eyebrows, eyelashes or chest hair.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Lice

There are a few different treatment options when it comes to lice including over the counter products and prescription medications. Malathion or Ovide, Benzyl alcohol lotion or Ulesfia, Lindane, pyrethrin and permethrin are some examples of treatment options for head lice. Body lice does not typically require a medical treatment, but self-care measures are required including treating clothing and other articles that the lice may have passed to. Self-care is essential in preventing further spread or recurrence of the lice problem.