What are Head Lice?
Lice are not insects, they’re parasites!
A parasite needs a host, which is another organism to grow, feed and live on, while contributing nothing to the survival of it’s host. The host of lice is the human head.
Lice only feed on human blood. They do not live on cats, dogs, or household pets – only humans.
Facts of Lice
- They are small, brown parasites about 1mm to 4mm long.
- Baby lice are called nymphs, they are transparent when they hatch and darken each day as they feed off the scalp.
- It takes 7-10 days for a nymph to mature.
- Lice lay about 3-5 eggs per day.
- It takes 7-10 days for an egg to hatch.
- Eggs are a teardrop shape and are glued on the hair shaft slightly off to one side.
- Lice do not jump or fly.
- Lice do not have wings, but can crawl quickly.
- Viable eggs are typically brownish.
- Empty egg casings are called nits. These are opaque or cloudy white.
- All eggs need to be removed to avoid further hatchings.
Identifying Head Lice
Millions of people get head lice every year.
It’s difficult to detect head lice if you’ve never seen it before. Individuals commonly mis-diagnose a lice infestation when they see white dandruff or hair casts.
Look for lice, eggs, or nits around the ears, crown, and nape of the neck.
It’s best to use magnification and bright light. Lice lay eggs on one hair at a time. Eggs are teardrop shaped off to one side about a 1/4 inch away from the scalp. If you cannot blow, flick or pull it out easily, it may be lice eggs or nits. Lice use a very special glue like substance to attach their eggs on the hair. If it comes out easily, most likely it’s not lice.
Check your children after a school / camp alert.
You should always provide a thorough head check for your children if you receive a notification from their school / camp alerting parents that there have been cases found. It’s always a good idea to check up to two weeks if you get that dreaded phone call that your child’s close friend or cousin, that had a play date or sleepover, has lice.
The most common symptoms of head lice are an itchy scalp, scabs, or redness on the nape of the neck.
Some individuals are not symptomatic to lice, but may still have head lice.