4/24/2010

What You Should Know About Head Lice

Here are some basic facts about head lice. You should really know what you are dealing with. As they say, knowledge is power.

Head lice are very small, and often difficult to find on the scalp, but they are not microscopic.
Lice and eggs are not like viruses - they can be seen with the naked eye. Their eggs are like tiny oval drops that are yellowish-white and are completely glued to the hair. The baby louse starts out as small as a speck of pepper. After hatching, it is completely clear in colour, but it turns red after its first meal, and it then turns a translucent brownish colour as it grows. Its colour can also be enhanced by the colour of the hair it is in – head lice look darker in lighter hair and can easily blend in with darker hair. A louse is as big as a sesame seed when it is fully grown.

The life cycle of lice lasts around 50 days.
They are in an egg for 7-10 days. After they hatch, they grow and molt their way to adulthood for another 10 days or so, and then once they reach adulthood, they live for about 30 days.

The female louse can lay about 3-10 eggs every day.
She can lay up to about 100 eggs in her lifetime. It sounds like a lot, but you can always pick her eggs off faster than she can lay them if you are diligent.

Lice are only passed from head to head through direct contact.
They cannot jump, they cannot fly, and you can’t get them just by being a room with someone who had head lice. The most current research shows that you also cannot get them from inanimate objects such as hats or brushes that have been used by someone who has head lice.

Head lice are a nuisance and a big inconvenience, but they are not a health issue. Unless you scratch your head so much that you create wounds that get infected, the head lice just create a bothersome itch, and that’s all.

Head lice like clean heads. They like dirty heads. They just like heads.
Having head lice does not mean that you have poor hygiene.

Head lice can only survive off the head for 2-3 days.
Otherwise, they starve.

Head lice can hold their breath and hang on.
This is why they are not affected when you go swimming or have a shower.

Head lice live on the human head (and sometimes they visit the neck for a snack).
You cannot give them to or get them from your pets. If you see bites on other parts of your body, you are dealing with something else and should seek medical attention. If you see bugs crawling around your home and you know that they didn’t just get shaken or brushed off of your head, then you can safely say that they aren’t head lice but a different problem to deal with.


Head lice are stopped by head cleaning, not house cleaning.There is no evidence to show that house cleaning or laundering will reduce your chances of reinfestation or will increase your chances of getting rid of the problem. They live on the head and are useless off of the head. So don't waste your energy by performing a marathon cleaning/laundry frenzy. Save your time for dealing with what's on the head.

2 comments:

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Where did it come from? Your head lice probably came directly from the head of someone else. Who's head? Who knows! All that matters now is that you have it and have to deal with it. (By the way, are you CERTAIN you have head lice? Have you seen live bugs? There are many causes of an itchy scalp.)

If you are certain that you have head lice, there is no quick fix or treatment that will solve the problem completely. The main thing you can do is (a) get a good proper metal lice comb and comb through the hair when it is wet and conditioned. (See other articles on this blog for tips on how to do this.) Then, use a blow dryer everyday to assist with drying out the nits and bugs (not a cure, but it has some effectiveness - again, check out this blog for more info.) Make sure that 98% of your energy is spent on getting the bugs off of your head (in other words, don't spend too much time doing crazy house cleaning). Wear clean shirts every day, boil your brushes and combs before use and clean anything that has direct contact with your hair (pillowcases, hats, etc.). Make sure the no one else in the household has head lice or you will just be passing around the problem.
Once the lice are removed, you still need to comb rigourously daily for at least 10 days. After you remove the head lice, the itching will remain for a time but will gradually go away.(Think about a mosquito bite - it itches for a while even though the mosquito left a long time ago.)

Once again, don't look for a quick fix. Even if you choose to use a pesticidal treatment such as Nix or R&C, you must put in the time to remove every bug and egg. A good comb (and finding someone to help you comb and pick if possible) will really make it easier.

Good luck!

The Swedish Wife said...

I have been thoroughly reading your blog the last couple of days as we have been dealing with a pretty large outbreak of lice in our home. My two older children spent the last 7 weeks with their father. While with him my daughter got head lice and then passed it to my son. They did not catch it until she had a severe infestation. Before she returned home they did a shampoo treatment and two combing sessions. Since she came home I have been doing wet combing on her every day. I also washed all of the sheets and the pillow cases and put the pillows in the dryer. I was very careful to avoid all head to head contact with both of them and made sure their heads did not touch any furniture or I did not come into contact with anything that had touched their heads. Yet, I still managed to get head lice! A few days after their return I pulled several adult lice out of my hair in the shower. I had my boyfriend thoroughly comb through my hair and he found about 15 more adult head lice, maybe 20 in total. I have no idea how I could have gotten them, but we did not find any nits at all in my hair. I have been dry combing my hair at night before showering and I find nothing, then after my shower I have my boyfriend wet comb my hair and he finds nothing. In the morning, I put my pillow in the dryer for 20 minutes and then dry comb my hair again. I have been finding 2 or 3 nymphs in my hair every morning. I have no clue how this is possible when we got all of the adult lice and there are no nits in my hair. I have also continued finding live lice in my daughter`s hair…which is not surprising as she had thousands of nits when she came home. I think that we have combed almost all of the nits out now though. I am worried we are fighting a losing battle and that I might miss one louse somewhere and we will have to start this all over!