What Are Head Lice?
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are tiny insects that live in the hair of humans. They are parasites and can not survive without a host. Their source of food is blood from the scalp. They retrieve the blood by biting, which can cause a bit of itchiness in some people, but not all. The symptom of itching only occurs in %50 of people with head lice.
Head lice are found most often on the back of the neck and behind the ears. Although lice can’t jump or fly, they can spread very easily from person to person through head-to-head contact or through shared items (such as a hat, towel, or hairbrush). Contrary to popular belief, personal hygiene has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Identifying Head Lice
To understand how to identify lice, it helps to know the three different stages of head lice:
Nits are tear shaped lice eggs that are attached to the hair shaft with a very sticky glue produced by the female louse. They are hard to see with the naked eye, as they’re only about as large as a knot in a piece of thread. Usually a brown or tan in color. Hatched eggs will appear to be white or grey in color on darker hair. Nits usually take about 7-10 days to hatch. Eggs that are likely to hatch are usually located very close to the scalp. Nits will often mimic the color of the hair they are attached to making them harder to see. Nits will often be seen in the baby hairs in the nape of the neck, around the hairline near the ears and in the hairline at the face. They are often mistaken for sand or dirt. They will feel hard like a bead when touched and are not easily removed.
As of 2021 scientists still have not discovered a formula or solution that will effectively kill viable lice eggs. (Be aware! Most of the boxed kits state that they kill the lice eggs. They are not being truthful) They only way to %100 kill a lice egg is to remove it from the hair strand. Once removed from the hair, it can not hatch and will die. This is why combing the nits out with a lice comb is so important.
Nymph (baby lice)
Nymphs are the baby lice. When first hatched the nymph is the size of a grain of salt. Very very tiny and incredibly difficult to see when looking with the naked eye. During a period of 7-9 days the lice nymph will rapidly grow and go through three stages of molting. At the end of the molting period the nymphs are now adult lice and are able to mate and rapidly reproduce.
The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed. They are a light brown to black in color depending on the color of the hair they are living in. Head lice has six legs and on the end of each leg is a claw. The claws are used to hold on to the hair strand and run very quickly through the hair. There are male and female lice. The female only has to mate one time and she is able to lay eggs for the rest of her life. It is usually a single adult female that will travel to a new host when she has the chance because she can start an infestation on her own. Males do not lay eggs. Each female can lay 150 - 200 eggs in their life time. Lice live 28-33 days on their human host. Once removed from their human host they can "technically" live for 24-32 hours BUT after just 6-8 hours of separation that bug is rapidly weakening, dehydrating and starving and is not a threat of re infestation. Head lice CAN NOT infest your home, bed, car, couch, classroom, etc. They are parasites and need a host
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