Lice Can’t Jump: 10 Myths about Head Lice Debunked

image of mother inspecting the back of her daughters head with a magnifying glass - checking for lice

Pets transmit lice.

False! Lice are species specific. Humans cannot catch lice from the pets and pets cannot catch lice from their human family members. Human lice live off of human blood and cannot feed on the blood of other species.

Home remedies are just as effective as over the counter products.

False! Some people think keeping your hair under water can drown head lice but in reality lice can live under water for up to two hours. In addition, there is no scientific proof that home remedies (like smothering lice with mayonnaise or detaching their eggs with white vinegar) work. In fact, some home remedies can be downright dangerous. There have been cases where people try to eradicate lice with gasoline or outdoor pesticides and children are severely hurt. The best way to treat head lice is with a medication such as Nix® or Kwellada-P®. These products come with specific instructions and ingredients that are meant to treat lice.

Poor personal hygiene causes lice.

False! Lice are not attracted to and do not come from dirty hair. Lice don’t discriminate and anyone can get head lice. Lice only use hair to remain attached to a human host so that they can drink blood from the scalp.

 Lice carry serious diseases.

False! Head lice do not transmit diseases or infections. Although it is worth noting that some individuals can scratch their scalp hard enough to cause sores. These sores can lead to later infections if not properly cleaned. 

Lice can fly.

False! Lice do not have wings and cannot fly. Lice cannot jump either. Lice can only crawl therefore the most common way for them to move from human to human is through head to head contact.

Lice can live in houses or schools (off of a human host) for extended periods of time.

False! Lice can only live without human blood for two to three days. Lice eggs usually die within a week and do not hatch if they experience fluctuating temperatures away from the human scalp. In addition, their feet are meant to grip human hair so it is unlikely that they would be able to hold on to other surfaces around the home.

Lice can’t be seen by the human eye.

False! Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and can be seen in the hair by looking closely. Lice eggs are smaller and harder to detect because their color tends to blend into the color of the hair. A magnifying glass can always be used to get a closer look at the scalp and potential lice that are on it.

Head lice can turn into pubic lice.

False! Head lice and pubic lice are two different types of lice. While it is not as common, pubic lice can also infest other areas of the body that have course hair (such as armpits or facial hair).

Lice use objects to travel from host to host.

False! While it is possible for lice to become accidentally disconnected from a host human and remain behind in a hat or on a pillow, it is highly unlikely that lice would voluntarily leave their food source on a human head. Lice do not strategically attach to hats or hair brushes in order to find a new host because they can feed on the same host many times. That being said, due to accidental transfer, it is wise to avoid sharing personal items and to wash items that others have used.

Shaving your head and/or your child’s head is the only way to eliminate lice.

False! This is an extremely drastic solution to combating head lice. There are other methods such as lice combs and special medications that are effective at treating head lice. Head lice prefer to remain close to the scalp (where they feed) so people with short hair are still susceptible to head lice infestations.