A few things you didn’t know – or perhaps didn’t want to know – about head lice.

  1. In any given year, it’s thought that around one third of UK school children under 16 will be infested with Pediculus Humanus Capitis (that’s the scientific name for the common head louse).
  2. Head lice infestation is so widespread it is thought to be the most communicable health problem suffered by children, after the common cold.
  3. In the US, head lice are responsible for as many as 12 million painful, itchy scalps every year.
  4. Although statistics show that young people are most at risk of suffering from a head lice infestation, older people can be just as susceptible to catching them.
  5. People often think that the itchiness of infestation is due to biting as the nasty critters feed off your blood. But this is incorrect – the irritation is actually an allergic reaction to head louse saliva and other unpleasant substances.
  6. It takes the body between four and six weeks to develop this immune sensitivity to the saliva. So you could have lice for all that time and not know.
  7. Females typically only need to mate once in their lifetime to produce all of their eggs. One mature female louse can lay up to six eggs per day.
  8. Contrary to popular belief humans can’t catch head lice from animals. This is a completely different type of lice.
  9. Head lice can’t jump. But it is possible that lice can sometimes be flicked away from the teeth of a comb by static electricity. Wowsers.
  10. Head lice inspired/invented the Mohawk. Shaving the top of the neck and head above and behind the ears was a popular method of preventing the transmission of head lice amongst tribes in Africa, Asia and America.
Article written using the following sources:

CDC, Global Health, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, September 2020

NHS, Head lice and nits, March 2021

Medical News Today, Hannah Nichols, February 2018

Healthline, How to Calculate How Long You’ve Had Lice, Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA, December 2020

Healthline, What Are Lice, and Where Do They Come From? Zora DeGrandpre, September 2019

The Guardian, Everything you ever wanted to know about head lice (but were too busy scratching to ask), April 2016