Lice Information | Facts
Pediculus Humanus Capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head and, in rare cases, the eyebrows and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the scalp to maintain their body temperature. Head lice cannot jump, fly, or swim and they are usually spread by direct head-to-head or hand-to-head contact with another person who has lice.
Head lice have a life cycle with three stages:
Eggs/Nits: These are lice eggs laid by the adult female louse at the base of the hair shaft near the scalp. The eggs are firmly attached to the hair shaft, are oval-shaped, extremely small and hard to see. Eggs vary in colour from clear to brown to yellowish-white. They are often confused with dandruff, scabs, or hair spray droplets. Eggs are usually located no more than 0.635cm from the base of the hair shaft.
Nymphs: A nymph is the immature louse that has recently hatched from the egg. Nymphs look like adult lice, but are smaller. They mature after 3 malts. Like adult lice, nymphs must feed regularly on human blood. Nymphs are possibly the hardest stage of head lice to see as they stick to the scalp and often look like a speck of dirt or a freckle.
Adults: The fully grown adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish-white in colour. To survive, adult lice must feed on blood. An adult head louse can live about 30 days on a human host, but will die within 24-48 hours if it falls off the host or is removed.
Lice life span
Eggs/nits: Usually take between 7 & 10 days to hatch.
Nymphs: Mature into adults about 9-12 days after hatching from the egg.
Adults: Can live about 30 days on a person’s head and 24-48 hours off the head.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Detection and diagnosis
Head lice and nits are usually most prevalent around and behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head.
Diagnosis to confirm the louse infestation is by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair, although this may be difficult as adult and nymphal lice are very small, move quickly, and avoid light. Use a fine toothed louse comb to help with correctly diagnosing head lice.
Lice Eggs that are attached within 6mm of the base of hair shafts suggest the person may have an active infestation.
Because head lice and lice eggs are very small and hard to see, a louse infestation is often difficult to detect and diagnose. At the time of detection, an average infestation often includes only 10-15 hatched lice and 20-30 eggs.
Symptoms and signs of infestation
Tickling feeling, like something’s moving in the hair. Excessive itching, usually caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse. Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
Post treatment & prevention
Control your environment
To reduce the chances of getting re-infested from another person, or from items that may have lice on them, it is important to:
Check all family members and close friends for signs of head lice.
Seek a Nit-pickers treatment as soon as possible for all suspected cases.
Avoid head-to-head and hand-to-head contact with anyone who has lice.
Take the following measures in your home:
Vacuum rugs, carpets, car seats and furniture (including mattresses) – throw used vacuum bag in outside garbage
Wash bedding, towels and clothing that have been used in the last 48 hours in very hot water (60 – 90 degrees)
Throw pillows, stuffed animals, cushions, duvet inners etc. into your tumble dryer for 20-30 minutes at the highest heat or seal in plastic bags for over 48 hours
Boil hair brushes and accessories for 10-20 minutes or freeze them in a plastic bag overnight
Hats, helmets, scarves etc. that cannot be washed can be sealed in plastic bags for over 48 hours
Head lice cannot survive off of a human head for more than 24 to 48 hours. The use of pesticide sprays in your home is not recommended as they will unnecessarily expose your household to harmful chemicals