Pediculosis capitis

Pediculosis capitis

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

ICD-10: B85.0.

The presence of lice on the scalp, seen especially in children, with nits attached to hairs.

Anyone can get pediculosis capitis. They are not a sign of being dirty. One telltale sign of pediculosis capitis is a persistent itching of the scalp, which is sometimes accompanied by inflamed scratch marks or what appears to be a rash. Itching may not start until several weeks after a person has been infested. Pediculosis capitis have been reported to be more prevalent in girls than boys.

Outbreaks of pediculosis capitis are common among children in school and institutions everywhere. Any person may become louse infested under suitable condition of exposure. Repeated infestation may result in dermal hypersensitivity.

Causes may include:

    Direct head contact with an infested person.

  • Sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, other hair-care items, towels and pillowcases.

  • Sharing clothing, headgear (hats, scarves, football and batting helmets, head phones, etc.), ribbons and other head coverings.


    Itching scalp, especially at the hairline and in the nape of the neck.

  • Tickling feeling of something (lice) moving in the hair.

  • Irritability especially in young children, as they do not know how to express their discomfort.

  • Sores on the head caused by the constant scratching.

  • Presence of nits (eggs) or lice in the hair close to the scalp.


Diagnosis of pediculosis capitis requires a thorough and careful examination of the hair and scalp. Nits are commonly found on the hairs at the nape of the neck and behind the ears where they are protected from extremes of light and temperature, but they can be deposited anywhere on the scalp and the entire head should be examined. Live adult and nymphal lice are difficult to find, as they move quickly and hide well.

The method of examination is not standardized; however, the use of a wooden applicator stick, tongue blade or comb will prove helpful to some. Gloves may be worn during examinations. Sometimes magnifier glasses may be used to view nits.


The recommended treatment includes using an over-the-counter (OTC) lice-killing product. These treatments may include:

1. "Nix"®, a cream rinse product which contains permethrin, a synthetic insecticide.

2. Many other brands of pyrethrin-based shampoo products ("RID"®, "R&C"®, "Triple-X"®, etc.). With these products, adult lice are usually killed with one treatment.

Precautionary measures must be followed carefully while using any of the products. Contact isolation if possible until 24 hours after application of an effective insecticide.

Preventive Measures: Clothing, bedding and fomites should be treated by laundering in hot water, dry cleaning or applying an effective chemical insecticide. Wash items such as combs, brushes, headgear, pillow cases, shirts/tops with collars, and towels in hot water.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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