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All about lice…

What are head lice?

Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis, are tiny parasitic insects that live on human heads and feed on human blood. They require human blood in order to survive. When head lice live long enough on a person’s scalp to multiply, it is referred to as an infestation. Another name for a head lice infestation is Pediculosis.

What do head lice look like?

Lice are tiny; smaller than a grain of rice. An adult louse can be grey, tan, white, or red-ish brown in color. A younger nymph louse is even smaller, about the size of a sesame seed, and is transparent except for a dark center.

Lice have six equally sized legs, but no wings. Because they have no wings, head lice can not fly. And their equally sized legs (no enlarged hind legs like crickets) make it impossible for them to jump either. Instead, a louse’s legs have a “hook” on the end that allow specially designed for climbing up a hair shaft.

What are nits?

Nits are head lice eggs. They take 6-8 days to hatch, but the hallow nit ‘shell’ can remain firmly glued to the hair shaft long after its louse has left the building!

What do nits look like?

Nits are the size of, or even smaller than, a poppy seed. They are oval and usually white or yellowish white in color. They change color as the louse develops inside. Nits can be found anywhere on the head, firmly attached to a hair shaft a quarter inch or less from the scalp.

How many nits can lice lay?

An adult female louse can lay 3-10 eggs per day, and will be able to do so for approximately 10-15 days.

My child has nits, but I don’t see any bugs. How can that be?

After emerging from their egg as a nymph, lice only live another 25-30 days. It is possible that your child has the nits of a louse that has already died, or one that has moved on to another head. However, if you have nits, you have to have had adult bugs at some point. Also, adult lice will avoid light and move closer to the scalp and out of sight during a head check. It is very easy to miss the bugs, even with combing.

For more information about head lice stages and how long they live, visit the Lice Life Cycle page.

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