The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Skin, Hair, and Nails
Harvard Health Publications
Order the Book
Contact Us

Sign up for our free e-mail newsletter, HEALTHbeat.  
Email Address:
First Name (optional):
Special Health Information Reports
Weight Loss
Prostate Disease
Vitamins and Minerals
Aching Hands
See All Titles
Browse Health Information
Common Medical Conditions
Wellness & Prevention
Emotional Well Being & Mental Health
Women’s Health
Men’s Health
Heart & Circulatory Health
About the Book
New Information
About the Team
Order the Book
Return to the Family Health Guide Home Page
  Harvard Health Publications
contact us

Infestations With Insects

Return to Chapter Index

Wet Combing More Effective for Detecting Head Lice than Traditional Visual Inspection
Head lice are minute, parasitic insects that live in hair. They easily spread from person to person, especially among children at school or in day care, and they are responsible for many school absences. Because lice are barely visible, finding lice eggs, called nits, is the easier way to detect an infestation. These tiny, white flecks cling to hair shafts. Researchers at Belgium’s Ghent University recently found that carefully sweeping a fine-toothed comb through wet, conditioned hair is more effective for detecting lice than the traditional, dry-scalp visual inspection.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, compared the two methods on 224 school children. Two trained teams independently examined the students: one using the wet comb technique, the other using the visual test. Wet combing found lice in 49 children, while the visual test only detected 32 of these cases. In addition, the traditional inspection mistakenly identified 14 uninfected children as having lice.

The results suggest that compared to traditional, visual inspection, wet combing would allow for more accurate head lice detection, meaning more infestations detected before they can spread, and fewer non-infested children receiving unnecessary treatment with insecticides.

Back to Top


©2000–2006 President & Fellows of Harvard College

Sign Up Now For
Our FREE E-mail Newsletter

In each weekly issue of HEALTHbeat:

  • Get trusted advice from the doctors at Harvard Medical School
  • Learn tips for living a healthy lifestyle
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in health
  • Plus, receive your FREE Bonus Report, Living to 100: What's the secret?

[ Maybe Later ] [ No Thanks ]