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Head Lice

There is no medical reason for excluding a child with nits or live lice from school or child care, however, it is the school board or facility’s decision whether or not to send a child with live lice home. Lice do not carry disease. The head lice that live on people are different from the kind that live on cats or dogs. People cannot get head lice from animals.

Lice are:

  • Small, flat, hard to see insects.
  • The size of a sesame seed, without wings.
  • Grey-brown in colour.
  • Not linked with poor hygiene.


  • Crawl and do not fly or jump – they spread by contact. Direct hair-to-hair contact or indirectly by sharing hats, combs, hairbrushes and headphones.
  • Do not spread disease.
  • Can be found close to the scalp, around the ears and, at the back of the neck and forehead.
  • Do not survive more than three days away from the warmth and humidity of the scalp.

Nits (eggs of the louse):

  • Attach to the hair shaft very close to the scalp.
  • Are the size of a grain of sand.
  • Are brown in colour when alive, white when dead or hatched.
  • Do not come off easily. Hatch in about seven days.
  • When more than 1 cm from the scalp they are dead or hatched.


  • Do not treat children unless they have live lice.
  • Your pharmacist can help you choose a head lice product.

Cleaning Personal Items:

  • Wash combs, brushes and hair accessories with hot, soapy water until all lice or nits are removed. Then soak them in very hot water for ten minutes. Wash clothing, bed sheets, blankets and towels in hot soapy water then put them in a hot dryer for 15 minutes.
  • Items that cannot easily be washed such as large blankets, coats, and stuffed animals can be put in a plastic bag for 14 days.
  • Do not use insecticide sprays.

Visit Your Doctor If:

  • There is an allergy or reaction to any of the ingredients in a lice treatment product.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Treating children less than two years of age.
  • Treating someone with a seizure disorder.
  • Treating lice on eyebrows, eyelashes or beard.
  • The skin of the scalp is broken or infected.
  • The head lice infestation persists.


Canadian Paediatric Society:  Identifying and Removing Head Lice

Head lice infestations: A clinical update

Head Lice Fact Sheet from Toronto Public Health

For further information or assistance with lice removal kindly contact or call 211 for community listings.