Head lice are spread most commonly by direct head-to-head
(hair-to-hair) contact and much less frequently by sharing
clothing or belongings onto which lice or nits may have
crawled or fallen. The risk of getting infested by a louse
that has fallen onto a carpet or furniture is very small.
Head lice survive less than 1-2 days if they fall off a
person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die
within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature
as that found close to the human scalp.
The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent
and control the spread of head lice:
Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play
and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere
(sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats,
sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs
and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them
in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5-10 minutes
Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or
stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with
an infested person.
Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other
items that an infested person wore or used during the 2
days before treatment using the hot water (130°F)
laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing
and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR
sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the
infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time
and money on housecleaning activities are not necessary
to avoid re-infestation by lice or nits that may have
fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or
Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not
necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if
inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school,
or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may
spread head lice.