Head Lice Fact Sheet
Head lice are common year round and right round the world. They are not dangerous, do not carry diseases and are not a sign of poor hygiene. In fact, head lice don’t much care whether the hair is clean or dirty.
The head lice family consists of nits and lice: the nit (head lice egg), the nymph (adolescent louse) and the adult louse. There are female and male lice and head lice do reproduce sexually.
Head lice cannot fly or jump but they do crawl at exceptional speeds. The lifespan of an individual louse is just thirty five days. However, within this time the louse can reproduce and create a large family of lice that continue the head lice life cycle.
The female louse can lay between 50 and 150 eggs in her lifetime, we refer to these as nits. The nits are an oval shape and are between 0.5 millimeters and 1 millimeters in length. When laid they are a yellow / white colour but can turn to a tan or coffee like colour as the embryo grows, once hatched the shell appears white.
A nymph, an adolescent louse, is between 1 and 2 millimeters in length and grows to around 2 to 3 millimeters as it develops into an adult louse.
Head lice can only survive on human blood, the lice feed from the scalp 3 to 4 times a day. The lice bite into the scalp and extract the blood directly from the bite. The bite is what can cause irritation to the infested person but not everyone will have “the itch” as irritation levels differ between individuals.
Lice cannot survive away from the scalp. Head lice removed from the scalp will immediately begin to dehydrate, only surviving up to a maximum of 24 hours away from the scalp. In the case a louse makes its way back to the scalp it is unlikely that the louse will be strong enough to reproduce.
It’s not just fancy marketing when it is recommended to repeat the treatment process. As combing requires time and the nits are very small it is very possible some may be missed during the initial treatment. These nits will hatch in 7-10 days and be vulnerable to a treatment – stopping the life cycle.
Re-infestation can occur in the case that the initial treatment has not removed or eradicated all the head lice eggs (nits) or a new infestation of head lice has been picked up from another host. Be vigilant and check for head lice regularly as early detection makes light work of any treatment and reduces the chance of multiple cases in the school yard.
There are just a few treatments on the market today that kill the head lice and their eggs, without the need for combing – try NitWits All-in-One.