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What happens if you have head lice for too long?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Ever had to deal with head lice? Those bothersome little bugs that love to set up camp on your scalp? They’re more common than you might think, especially among kids aged 3 to 11. But here’s the thing: they don’t care who you are or how often you wash your hair.

Head lice, scientifically known as Pediculus humanus capitis, are tiny insects that feed on human blood and cause a lot of itching. They don’t have wings, so they can’t fly, but they’re speedy crawlers, making it easy for them to move around on your head.

In the UK, millions of people get head lice every year, especially children. But why does it matter if you have them for a while? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about.

What happens if you leave head lice untreated?

Leaving head lice untreated for too long can cause serious problems. Here’s what can happen:

  • Intense itching: Head lice bites lead to intense itching, making it hard to sleep or concentrate.


  • Skin infections: Scratching can break the skin, letting bacteria in and causing infections like impetigo or cellulitis.


  • Hair loss: Severe infestations may lead to temporary hair loss as constant scratching weakens hair follicles.


  • Emotional impact: Head lice can be embarrassing and isolating, leading to anxiety and low self-esteem, especially in children.


  • Treatment challenges: Longer infestations can make lice resistant to treatments, requiring multiple rounds and causing frustration.

Frequently asked questions about head lice

How long can head lice live without a host?

Head lice can survive up to 1-2 days without a host.

What are the signs of a severe head lice infestation?

Signs of a severe head lice infestation may include persistent itching, visible lice or nits in the hair, red bumps on the scalp, and difficulty sleeping.

Can head lice spread to other parts of the body?

No, head lice typically stay on the scalp and do not spread to other parts of the body.

A woman examines her daughter's hair for head lice

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