Germ Illustration

Pediculosis (Head Lice)

Head lice are an infestation of the scalp by a tiny parasite. Head lice do not pose a health risk although they cause uncomfortable itching. They cannot jump or fly, however they can crawl quickly from one person to another. They easily spread when there is close head to head contact particularly among children in child care centres, and schools. They may also be spread by sharing personal items such as headwear, scarves, towels and bedding.

What To Do About Head Lice

If you suspect a child in your centre has head lice, examine the scalp carefully; look for tiny, dark coloured or white nits (eggs). Head lice have nothing to do with the cleanliness of a child’s home or hair.

The best protection against head lice is to be proactive and regularly check under hair for nits and/or lice. Nits can be found close to the scalp attached to the fine hair behind the ears, at the back of the neck and above the forehead. They may look like dandruff however will not flick off the hair.

When looking for lice or nits:

  1. Sit under a bright light or a window.
  2. Part the hair in small sections.
  3. Check the entire head, going from one side of the head to the other.
  4. Remove the nits by using your thumbnail against your finger to grab the nit and slide it along the entire length of the hair shaft. It is important all nits be removed.
  5. Place nits in a plastic bag, then seal the bag and put it in the garbage.


Educate parents and teachers about recognizing head lice. Ask parents to notify you if they discover their child has head lice. Children with head lice should be treated and can attend child care as usual. Although exclusion was common in the past, it’s ineffective and unnecessary. The child can return to centre as soon as the first treatment has been applied. Treatment should be repeated in 7 – 10 days. Encourage parents to remove all nits since head lice products do not kill all of them.

Make sure that the children in your centre do not use each other’s combs, brushes, hats, scarves, coats, sweaters, or other personal items. Provide individual resting mats, bedding, pillows, towels, and face cloths for the children. Store them separately.

Have the carpets in your centre vacuumed regularly. Clean tumbling mats and other gym equipment regularly.

If several cases of lice are reported, take special precautions to contain the spread:

  • Suspend activities that involve close personal contact or the use of costumes, hats, and wigs.
  • Seat children in every other chair around table if possible.
  • Vacuum carpets daily.
  • Monitor close physical groupings carefully.

Check the health unit website for further resources. (see Sample Head Lice Alert (PDF) and Letter to Parents (PDF))

Last modified: February 19, 2020