8 reasons kids get headlice

School letter about headlice
A third of kids will get headlice at some point of each school year. We take a look at what causes the spread – and how you can help contain it.

Sometimes it can seem as if no sooner have you treated an outbreak of headlice than they’re back again.

The primary school classroom can be a breeding ground for headlice, with kids often reinfesting each other.

One in three children will catch nits at some point during the school year, and 10 to 20% have them at any one time. Feeling itchy yet?

Here are eight reasons why your child (and you – sorry!) might get headlice.

1. School

Primary school children spend a lot of time up close to each other, whether they’re working in groups at their table, sitting on the carpet for circle time, or playing outside at breaktime.

These are all perfect opportunities for headlice to crawl from one head to another, explaining why they’re most common in children aged four to 11.

If your child has long hair, putting it in tight plaits or a bun can prevent the spread as it makes it harder for lice to cling onto the hair shaft.

2. Sleepovers

When kids are snuggled up in sleeping bags, watching films and sharing popcorn, they’re right in each other’s personal space, which makes it easy for lice to spread from one child to the next.

3. Video games

Crowding around a games console or tablet means children are often in close enough proximity for headlice to migrate from head to head.

4. Selfies

Teens and tweens are obsessed with selfies, and squashing up together to fit into the frame gives headlice ample chance to move in.

The more kids in the photo, the more heads the lice can potentially infest. Smile!

5. Playing with hair

Unsurprisingly, girls are more likely to get headlice than boys because they generally have longer hair: the best hiding place for lice.

They also like doing each other’s hair, and sharing brushes, combs and hairbands can transfer headlice from one child to another.

If your child comes out of school every day with a different hairstyle from the one she left home with, it’s worth asking the teacher to discourage playground hairdressing to help prevent the spread of headlice.

6. Siblings

Siblings often spend a lot of time in close contact with each other, whether they’re next to each other on the sofa watching TV, bouncing on the trampoline or play-fighting on the living room floor.

That’s why it’s important to check everyone in the family if one child has headlice, as the chances are they’ll have moved in on someone else, too.

7. Listening to music

Although headlice are usually spread by physical contact, sometimes they cling to inanimate objects and are able to survive long enough to take up residence on another child’s head.

Bizarrely, it’s not unheard of for kids to get headlice from sharing earphones or headphones, so it’s best to tell your child to use their own rather than borrowing from their mate.

8. Storytime

Adults are less likely to get headlice than kids, but when you’re snuggled up with your child listening to them read or sharing a bedtime story, they can take the opportunity to move from their head to yours.

The same applies to grandparents and other adults who share storytime or other close contact with your child, so if you’ve spotted lice, it’s important to tell them to check their hair, too.