What is Head Lice?
facts of lice
Head lice are six-legged wingless insects measuring between 2-3 millimeters, about the size of a sesame seed. They can vary in color from grayish white to reddish brown and have the ability to adapt their color to their environment.
While they cannot jump or fly, head lice can crawl quickly along the hair shaft. As parasites, they depend on human blood for survival and must have a “blood meal” (at the scalp) every two to three hours to survive.
The female has a lifespan of up to 30 days, during which time she can produce between 3 and 10 eggs (nits) per day, attaching them to the hair shaft, generally close to the scalp where environments are the warmest.
Nits may look like dandruff but can vary in color from whitish to tan to even reddish brown, making them hard for an untrained eye to recognize and see. They are attached to the hair with a sticky glue-like protein substance which forms a bond that is difficult to break without specialized products and techniques.
Nits hatch between one and two weeks after they’re laid. Baby lice are known as nymphs, and they become adult lice between one and two weeks after hatching. Adult lice mature to about the size of a sesame seed.
Though very small, lice can be seen with the naked eye. Nymphs and nits are even smaller and it may require an expert to identify them with certainty.
Who Gets Lice
The CDC reports that somewhere between 6 and 12 million people in the United States are infested annually.
Children from 3 to 11 years old are particularly susceptible, no one is immune and anyone can get head lice.
All socioeconomic classes are affected.
Some research concludes that girls are more commonly infested, but neither hair length nor personal hygiene is a predictive factor. Lice, in fact, prefer clean hair, since it’s easier to adhere to than oily hair.
No one knows why some people are more prone than others to having head lice, but blood type and Rh factor seem to be elements.
Once someone gets lice, the possibility of getting them again, especially in the short term, has proven to be greater.
Removing Head Lice and Preventing Re-Infestation
Specialized products that immobilize the live lice and nymphs and then break the bond between the hair and the glue-like substance that holds the nit to the hair shaft must be used. Also, manual nit removal, which is the process of going strand-by-strand through the hair to physically remove the nits, is the only way to ensure lice are completely removed.
Be careful about products and services that claim to KILL HEAD LICE. Most products (either those utilized by an independent service or those purchased for home use) would need to be placed on the head for an extended period of time in order to actually kill an adult louse or a maturing nymph, and many of the products that do so are toxic in nature. Additionally, research proves that NO product can kill lice eggs (nits). The only confirmed way to completely remove a case of head lice in one treatment is to manually remove every louse, nymph and nit!
Prevention is key, and after head lice have been effectively removed, there are ways to help keep them away. Following these preventive measures reduces the risk of re-infestation: