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Frequently Asked Questions about Lice

How long have I had Head Lice?

The more lice and nits you have, the longer you have had Lice.

How can I have Lice if I'm not itching?

Not everyone has an allergic reaction to a lice bite and therefore not everyone will itch.

Can I still itch after my Lice are gone?

Yes! Most people itch due to an allergic reaction caused by the feeding cycle of the Lice. When an adult Louse feeds it pierces the skin with its claws, injects saliva and feeds on a small amount of blood. The piercing causes the allergic reaction which causes the itchy feeling.

Nits

If I don't see a "Live Lice" and only have a few nits (eggs) do I really have lice?

Yes! It is rare to see live Lice. They are flesh colored and blend into your scalp. Most often a child is diagnosed by the presence of nits. If you have only one nit you have lice!!

Do lice live everywhere?

No! Lice prefer to live on your head attached to your hair. However, if they fall off or lose their grasp they will continue to try to live as long as possible. Think of this logically, Lice are insects and they want to survive – but they must feed to survive. If they fall off of your head they can't feed and therefore will only survive for 24-48 hours. They will ultimately starve.

Can nits live everywhere?

Yes, but for a short time period. Eggs need the warmth of the body to incubate, much like a chicken sitting on an egg. If a nit attached to your hair falls off of your head and lands on your fabric couch, that nit can live 24-48 hours before it hatches. This is why we vacuum and spray all fabric material.

(Example: car seat, couches, backpacks, bike helmets… just to name a few.)

Why do I need to bag all of my things I can't wash?

You bag everything in case a nit or a lice bug is attached to any of these items.You Leave it bagged for 1 week to prevent a re-infestation from hatched eggs and or lice.

(EX: Stuffed animals, decorative pillows, large comforters, fabric toys, hair accessories)

What do I do with my brushes and combs?

You can either boil them or place them in the dish washer on high heat cycle. (I prefer the dishwasher; I also place hair ties in there as well.)

Do lice like clean or dirty hair?

Head Lice actually prefer clean hair.Since the lice glue their eggs to the hair shaft, clean (non-oily) hair allows for easier attachment.

Is there a Lice season?

Yes and No. Back to school is when Head Lice are most commonly transmitted. I see many outbreaks when children come back together at the beginning of the school year and after Holiday Breaks. Summer Sleep-away camps are also a period of time when Lice are commonly transmitted. At these times, I recommend sending your child to school or camp with Lice repellant in their hair. However, Lice are transmitted year round through head to head contact.

Important Facts

  • It is anatomically impossible for Lice to jump or fly, they simply crawl or fall off the hair to move or get away from danger. They can, however, move with amazing speed.
  • Their claw-like hooks on the end of each leg help the lice to stay attached to your hair or in your environment.
  • Lice are more commonly found on girls than boys, because their hair mass and longer length offer a more secure and attractive breeding ground. The risk is increased if the child's hair is long and loose.
  • Lice are primarily scent driven, similar to ants. Each louse has a sharp sense of smell and excellent eyesight. Blood type, particularly RH factor is a major factor in contracting lice.
  • Over the counter Head Lice kits contain pesticides!! Research shows that not only are these dangerous to your child they are ineffective! Over the years Lice have developed a resistance to over the counter products, making their success rate less than 50%.

Life Cycle Diagram

The lice life cycle(photo courtesy of Victoria, Australia Department of Health)

The life cycle of the head louse has three stages: egg/nit, nymph, and the adult louse.

Egg/Nit

Nits are head lice eggs. They are very small, about the size of a knot in thread, they are hard to see and often confused for dandruff. Dandruff can be brushed away with your fingers. Nits cannot be "flicked" away like dandruff. A nit must be pulled off the hair with your finger nails.

Nits are laid by an adult female and they are firmly attached to the hair shaft via the nit glue.

They are oval and usually yellow to white. A nit will often become brown right before it is ready to hatch.

Nits take about 7–10 days to hatch and become nymphs. Nits can hatch on a person's head or off a person's head.

Nymph

A newly hatched nymph takes 7-10 days to become and adult: the age at which a female starts to lay eggs. As the nymph grows, it molts out of its exoskeleton 3 times before it becomes an adult.

The eggs can survive 2-3 days off of a host, virtually anywhere in your immediate environment, but once hatched the nymph must feed on a human host within 2 days or they will die.

Adult

An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and typically is tan to grayish-white. However, I have seen brown, black, blue and purple colored lice after they have fed.

An adult can live up to 30-35 days on a person's head. It will feed about 5 times a day by piercing the skin with its claws, injecting saliva and sucking blood.

During their lifetime, a female louse can lay up to 150 eggs at a rate of 4-8 per day.

The female will lay eggs on any fibrous material or hair and the eggs/nits will hatch in 7-10 days. If you see eggs, you have lice.