Head Lice Facts
What are Head Lice?
Lice is the plural term that refers to more than one louse. Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp, usually on children 10 and under. Head lice are tiny, six-legged, wingless, blood-sucking parasites, with a curved claw that can tightly grasp the scalp hair. Head lice crawl easily between hairs, but they can’t fly or jump.
They do not live on pets or other animals.
Head lice only feed on human blood, drawing a tiny drop with each meal. The louse does not dig or burrow into the skin – it uses its needle-like mouthparts to find a blood vessel in the skin.
How Do You Get Lice?
Head lice are almost always caught directly from another person. Usually, this happens when children are in direct head-to-head contact, such as sharing a bed, or playing or sitting together in close contact
Louse eggs (nits) cannot move and are not transmissible. Head lice are rarely transferred or transmitted on a shared comb, brush, hat, headphone, helmet, jacket.
Head lice that fall off a person quickly starve and usually die within a few hours. So lice that fall on a desk, floor or clothing at school will not be alive the next day. Clothing, stuffed animals, theater seats and other items are not threats to spread head lice. Bathing every day will not prevent or wash away head lice. Cleaning the home or bagging toys and clothing won’t help you prevent or get rid of head lice.
Signs & Symptoms:
Head lice can cause itching and scratching, however only 60% of people actually itch. The itching comes from an allergy to the saliva in the lice bites. Lice particularly love the scalp, behind the ears and the nape of the neck, but they love hair so can be found anywhere on the head.
Head lice are specific to the human head and need a human host to survive. They will not travel to other parts of your body. You can often see the lice eggs, commonly referred to as nits, on the hair shaft. Your focus should be on the manual removal of all lice and nits from the head. While some of those nits may be nonviable, trying to determine the viability of every nit on the head without examination under a microscope can be very challenging and your time is better spent focusing on 100% removal of everything on the head. This is really the only guaranteed way to get rid of a head lice infestation.
People often mistake dry scalp or dandruff for nits. One key difference is dandruff flakes off whereas nits literally stick to the hair shaft and will not move if you blow on them. Nits are only laid on one side of the hair shaft and have a very distinctive teardrop shape.
When checking a head, chances are you will not see the lice because they are very fast moving OR they lie flat on the scalp, camaflouging itself amongst the hair and scalp, making it very difficult to see. You will however see the nits and that is what you should be looking for to determine if you have an infestation. While it is most common for eggs to be laid 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the scalp, in warmer weather eggs are commonly laid anywhere on the hairshaft. This is because lice move more freely around the head in warmer weather. There is no such thing as a lice season. Lice are a year-round problem, they are just more easily spotted in warmer weather.
The best method of prevention is to do once-a-week head lice checks. Wet lice checks have been proven to be the most effective method of checking with 95% accuracy when done correctly. Wet hair and apply a white based conditioner to the hair. Use a wide tooth comb to comb through the hair, once all the knots are out, proceed with lice comb and comb from base of hair to the ends wiping the comb on paper towel each time you comb. The white conditioner will enable you to see the nits and lice on the paper towel.
Do not share hair accessories: rubber bands, headbands, brushes and combs. Do not share hats, coats, hoodies, sweatshirts, scarves, etc. Head to head contact is the most common way head lice are passed. We recommend using lice prevention products. While not 100% full-proof, they can be effective in keeping lice away because of their high percentage of essential oils which have been proven effective in the battle against head lice. They also create a barrier on the hair which is also a deterrent. Long hair should be kept in braids or ponytails. Boys should keep their hair short.
Head lice only live for about three weeks. An adult female louse will lay about six eggs (nits) each day. She attaches each egg with a cement-like material that does not wash out. If the louse mated, her eggs may develop during the next 9 days. The eggs do not grow, move or cause any health problems. Once developed, the young louse (called a nymph) breaks out of the egg, crawls on the hair and leaves behind the now empty eggshell. The empty egg will never produce another louse, but it will remain glued to the hair until it is broken or cut off.
The nymph will grow in size and shed its skin every few days until it has matured to become an adult. Only the adult female can lay eggs.