What do head lice look like?

lice and nymphs (baby lice). The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Nymphs are smaller.


Lice eggs (often called nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear.


Who can get head lice?

Anyone can. A person's degree of cleanliness or personal hygiene has little or nothing to do with getting head lice. A common misconception is that lice infestation is a result of poor hygienic practices. In fact, head lice actually seem to prefer clean hair to dirty hair.

How is head lice spread?

Head lice can be spread whenever there is direct head to head contact with an infested individual. Less frequently, lice are also transmitted between people by head-to-hand contact and by items such as hats, hair ties, scarves, pillows, etc. However, scientists disagree on how often this type of "fomite" transmission- that is, transmission from an object contaminated with lice- really occurs.

What are the symptoms of head lice?

Head lice are most commonly found on the scalp, behind the ears and near the neckline at the base of the head. Unless seen, symptoms of infestation are easy to miss. Symptoms include a tickling sensation, or feeling something moving through the hair. An allergic reaction to the bites causes itching. Viable eggs are usually located within 1/4 inch (6mm) of the scalp.

What is the life cycle of head lice and their eggs?

Eggs:Eggs are laid by adult female lice and usually take about 8 to 9 days to hatch into nymphs.

Nymphs: Nymphs are immature lice that mature into adults about 9 to 12 days after hatching from the egg.

Adults: Adult lice can live about 30 days on a person’s head. If they come off the host, they die within 24 to 48 hours. Female adult lice lay about 4 eggs per day and can lay about 88 eggs during their lifetime.

What are steps I can take to prevent getting head lice?

Avoid head to head contact during play, sleepovers, or other activities at home, school, and elsewhere. Do not share combs, brushes or towels used by an infested person. Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons or barrettes. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person used or wore during the previous 2 days using a hot water laundry cycle and high heat drying cycle. Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.


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