Visits to NHS website’s head lice advice page jump by a third in back-to-school spike

The number of people seeking advice on head lice and nits from the NHS website has increased by more than a third since the beginning of September.

Figures released by NHS England, which runs the NHS website, show there were 12,720 weekly visits to the health advice page on head lice and nits last week (15 to 21 September) compared with 9,524 at the start of the month (1 to 7 September) – an increase of 34%.

Visits peaked on Monday 18 September when there were 2,196 in a day – the equivalent of one click every 39 seconds.

The increase coincides with children returning to school after the holidays. Head lice and nits are common in young children and families, and are passed on through head-to-head contact, not dirty hair.

The NHS head lice and nits advice page helps people identify the small 3mm insects by showing clear images of lice, as well as photos of the empty shells of hatched eggs, known as nits.

Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “Head lice and nits are a common issue, especially among young children and families in close contact with one another.

“Once detected, there is no need to consult a GP, but treatment should begin immediately and all household members should be checked and treated to stop further spread.

“The head lice and nits advice page provides the latest advice to manage the condition and help keep any outbreaks of head lice and nits under control.”

The NHS page provides information on different treatments, such as wet combing using conditioner and a special fine-toothed comb, as well as tips on using medicated lotions and sprays available from pharmacies, supermarkets and online.

It recommends wet combing as the most effective way of treating and preventing head lice by:

  • Washing hair with ordinary shampoo
  • Smothering hair in any type of conditioner
  • Combing the whole head from root to tip with a special fine-toothed detection comb available from pharmacists or online
  • Repeating this process on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly-hatched head lice
  • Checking again that everyone is lice-free on day 17.

The NHS website is the UK’s biggest health website with an estimated 2.6 million visits a day in 2022 from people seeking information and advice.

It includes over 4,000 pages and provides information about 990 medical conditions as well other health services including applying for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card for healthcare cover abroad, finding a GP, and a pregnancy due date calculator.

For more information visit the head lice and nits advice page on the NHS website.