Debunking the Myth: Can Black People Get Lice? [Research Studies 2023]

Itchy scalps, small bites, and the fear of the unknown – all symptoms of a potential head lice infestation. So, you may be wondering “can black people get lice?” What if we told you that this common problem may not affect everyone equally!?

For years, there has been a myth circulating that black people cannot get lice. But this is simply not true.

In this blog post, we will be exploring the truth behind this myth, delving into the biology of lice and their impact on different hair types, and providing practical advice on prevention and treatment.

Join us as we separate fact from fiction using scientific evidence and empower our readers to tackle lice infestations head-on.

Can black people get lice?

can black people get head lice
Do black people get lice?

Yes, black people can get lice, but head lice infestation in black people are less common compared with other ethnic groups and races.

Although head lice infestations are extremely prevalent, you may be relieved to learn that some hair textures are more resistant to becoming infested.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Center for Global Health (CGH) in the United States, African-Americans and other persons of African descent had a significantly lower prevalence of head lice than those of other racial or ethnic backgrounds.

This is because head lice in the United States have claws that are better adapted to certain hair types, and the coily texture of black people’s hair is not very appealing to these parasites.

Studies on prevalence (occurrence) of head lice in black people

A study reporting black people do not get lice

can black people get head lice
Can black people have lice?

In a study by Govere and colleagues published in the journal “South African Journal of Science”, the prevalence of head lice was investigated among 1-7 graders in a rural school in Barberton, South Africa.

Two schools, Sikhutsele Primary School and Barberton Primary School, which are 5 kilometers apart, participated in the study.

Sikhutsele’s students were all black and came from a low-income area, while those at Barberton came from a wide variety of backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

Out of 300 black schoolchildren checked in the Sikhutsele area, the study showed no evidence of head lice infection.

However, among the 175 children from Barberton’s primary school who were screened, 15 (or 8.6%) had head lice.

Head lice were found to have a relatively low prevalence among Barberton’s elementary school students, and to disproportionately impact white students.

In summary, the study found no lice infections in black children, but the lice infection rate was 8.6% in non-black school children (White, mixed, Asian).

Then, it’s true that black people cannot get lice; mmm, not really!

Studies reporting black people can get lice in their hair

Several other studies found variable prevalence of head lice in African populations. Here is a summary of some of the findings:

  • Tanzania: the prevalence of head lice in a study among 2876 participants was 5.3% (all ages).
  • Cameroon: the prevalence of head lice was 32% among schoolchildren.
  • Ivory Coast: the prevalence of head lice was 18.5% among children (4-15 years old).

These were only a select studies. There are many other studies reporting that black people can get lice in their hair.

If I have nits do I have lice?

can black people get lice
Can black people get lice?

In a study by Donnelly et al, it was found that two-thirds of school nurses who responded to a questionnaire had a “no nit” policy.

This policy stated that any child found with nits or lice must be excluded from school until they have been treated with a pediculicide and have all visible nits removed.

However, the study found that the presence of nits did not necessarily mean an active infestation with lice .

On initial screening, only 31% of children with nits had lice. Additionally, not all children with nits become infested, with only 18% developing lice over the next 14 days.

The study found that children with 5 or more nits within one-fourth of an inch of the scalp were more likely to develop an infestation, but even in these cases, only 32% became infested.

The study also showed that excluding children with nits alone from school would cause many children to miss school unnecessarily.

The study suggested that while removing nits may seem like it would reduce the risk of infestation, it is often difficult in practice and not essential for children to remain lice-free.

The study also found that 73% of children with lice or nits received a pediculicide within the past year, and during this time these children were treated an average of 4.3 times.

The study suggested that some children were treated unnecessarily, as criteria for treatment have been addressed recently in the United Kingdom, where the use of pediculicides is recommended only if a live louse is found and not for nits alone.

How can black people get head lice?

Head lice
Head lice

Black people can get head lice just like anyone else. Contact with an infected person is the leading cause of contracting head lice. This may occur in the course of everyday activities, such as games, sports, sleepovers, or even classroom discussions.

Keep in mind that direct head-to-head contact is a main cause for transmission of head lice.

It is also possible to contract lice from another person via sharing clothing or hair accessories, though this is much less likely.

Sharing clothing, caps, combs, or other personal items used by an affected person might spread the lice and their eggs to other people.

Lying on furniture or carpeting that has recently been in contact with an affected person can also spread lice.

Getting lice is easy to avoid if you just don’t hang out with people who might have it and don’t use their stuff.

How common is lice in black hair?

Lice may infest anyone’s hair, regardless of hair color, so don’t worry if you have black hair. Black hair does not have a higher or lower chance of lice infestation than any other hair color.

What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?

Itching and irritation on the scalp are common reactions to a head lice infestation. Some of the evident symptoms of a head lice infestation are:

  • Itchy, uncomfortable scalp: Lice draw blood from the scalp for sustenance.
  • Nits (eggs) adhering to the hair shaft, which can be either white or brown and are very small. These tiny, oval-shaped eggs tend to cluster near a person’s head. These particles are not easily removed and can be mistaken for dandruff or droplets of hair spray.
  • Lice crawling around the scalp or the hair: Approximately the size of a sesame seed, lice are a tiny brown bug. They’re swift and often evade detection.
  • A person can get a few little sores on their scalp if they scratch their itchy scalp too often.

Checking for lice often is vital, especially if someone is experiencing itching on the scalp, because not everyone will show outward signs of infestation even if they have it.

You or someone you know may have lice, so it’s best to be checked out by a doctor if you notice any of the telltale signs.

How to get rid of lice in black people’s hair?

How to get rid of lice in black people's hair
Can black people get lice?

Head lice is an active infestation that necessitates treatment for people who have been diagnosed. All members of the household and close contacts should be tested and treated if infected.

As a precaution, some specialists advise treating those who share a bed with an infected person.

Pediculicides are medications used to kill lice, and some also have an ovicidal effect, i.e. killing eggs. For drugs that do not have a substantial ovicidal action, retreatment may be required.

Additional precautions, such as cleaning clothing and bedding, can be used in conjunction with medication, but they are not usually required.

It is critical to follow the directions on the prescription label and to avoid washing or conditioning the hair before or after treatment.

If lice remain after treatment, speak with a healthcare provider about alternate pharmaceutical alternatives.

Nit combing after treatment, as well as continuing to check for lice in the following weeks, can help to reduce the likelihood of reinfestation.

It may be important to retreat in order to destroy any remaining hatched lice before they lay fresh eggs.


It is completely untrue that lice cannot infest black people. Compared to people of other racial or ethnic origins, studies have indicated that African-Americans and people of African heritage have a considerably lower prevalence of head lice.

However, this does not imply that they are immune. It is crucial to keep in mind that nits do not always indicate an active infestation, and that effective preventative and treatment techniques should be utilized to fight lice infestations in all types of hair.


Do lice jump like fleas?

No, lice do not jump like fleas. Lice are wingless insects that have six legs, each equipped with claws, which enable them to cling tightly to hair shafts and avoid detection. Head lice move by crawling and are transmitted through close personal contact, or by sharing combs, brushes, hats, and other personal items.

Do lice like clean hair?

Lice, contrary to popular opinion, do not care how clean your hair is. They can infest any head, regardless of hair quality or cleanliness. The cleanliness of one’s hair has little effect on whether or not one is visited by lice; rather, the warmth and moisture of the scalp are what draw them in.

Do lice have wings?

No, lice do not have wings. Head lice, scientifically known as Pediculus humanus capitis, are wingless insects.

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