Head Lice

Students who live in dorms are in relatively close proximity to other people all the time, and the potential for sharing items is very high. These are all things head lice love!

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What is Head Lice?

Lice are tiny insects that can be found on the head. These insects live on humans and feed on their blood. Lice that live close to the scalp are known as head lice.

Head lice are found most often on the back of the neck and behind the ears.

Although lice can’t jump or fly, they can spread very easily from person to person through head-to-head contact or through shared clothing or personal items (such as a hat, towel, or hairbrush). Contrary to popular myth, personal hygiene has nothing to do with getting head lice.

think I have lice or have been exposed to someone who has lice....


  • Make sure that there is adequate lighting when checking for head lice. A well-lit room or flashlight and a magnifying glass will help you spot any eggs or lice.
  • Begin at the bottom part of the neck and behind the ears and work your way up. Nits and lice can be found anywhere on the head but they prefer warmer places to hide. Thus, the lower hairline is the right place to start.
  • After checking the first section, divide the hair into halves and inspect each section for eggs and lice. Repeat the process throughout the entire head, paying particular attention to warmer spots.

If you are alone…

  • What you can do is examine the area behind your ears in the mirror, because this is where head lice will lay their eggs. You might find a live lice or you might see nits on your hair.
  • To make sure these are nits and not dandruff, try to remove them with your finger. If they move easily it is dandruff, if NOT it is nits.
  • Then, if you can put a mirror in front of your bathroom mirror, you can examine the base of your neck. First take your hair up and try to look if you can see lice crawling. You might also see lice eggs. Note that if you have dark hair, this might be more difficult

What do I do if I have lice?

It is time for treatment

There are several medicated shampoos commonly used to treat head lice.

  • (Nix brand) – Over the Counter
    Shampoos or creme rinses that contain 1% permethrin have the fastest killing time against adult lice and the highest nit-killing capability. Permethrin has a residual effect that will continue to kill nits for several days after the first application. While one application should be sufficient to kill lice and nits, some experts suggest a second treatment one week after the first.
    **Do not use if you have an allergy to ragweed or chrysanthemums**
  • (Rid brand) – Over the counter
    Shampoos that contain pyrethrin kill lice quickly but do not leave a residual that will continue to kill nits, resulting in a less effective treatment. Two applications of these types of shampoo 7-10 days apart are recommended to kill nits
    **Do not use if you have an allergy to ragweed or chrysanthemums**.
  • Manual removal of nits with a nit comb, fingernails, or by cutting strands of hair that contain nits is essential following treatment with pediculocides or alternate treatments. To aid in the removal of nits, hair can be soaked in a 3% to 5% white vinegar solution followed by application of a damp towel soaked in the same solution for 30-60 minutes before attempting nit removal.


Tip #1: Avoid head-to-head contact. The easiest way for lice to spread from one person to another is through direct contact.

Tip #2: Don’t share clothing or personal items. Do not share personal belongings such as hats, scarves, hair ribbons, combs, brushes, towels, or other items that may have come into contact with their hair

Tip #3: Clean to control the spread. Items that have come into contact with a person infested with head lice should be machine washed in hot water (130° F) and dried in the dryer on a high heat setting. Such items include clothing, bed linens, and stuffed animals. Items that cannot be washed can be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks. Combs and brushes that have been used by an infested person should be soaked in hot water for 5-10 minutes.

If you have any additional questions, please call the Marquette University Medical Clinic at (414) 288-7184 and ask to speak with a nurse.


If you have any questions about head lice you can call the Medical Clinic at (414) 288-7184 and ask to speak with a nurse. The Marquette University Medical Clinic does not do "head checks" for lice.