What are lice and how do I know if I have it?

Head lice (Pediculus Humanus Capitis), is a parasitic insect that is be found on the head. They feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the scalp.

Lice have a life cycle with 3 stages:
Eggs/Nits:
Eggs laid by the adult female louse, at the base of the hair shaft near the scalp. They’re firmly attached to the hair shaft and can only be removed with either a fine tooth louse comb, or by using your finger nails. The eggs vary in colour from clear to brown to yellowish-white and are often confused with dandruff, scabs, or hair spray droplets. Eggs usually take around 7 – 10 days to hatch.

Nymphs:
The immature louse that has recently hatched from the egg. They look like adult lice, but are smaller and generally stick to the scalp. This makes them extremely hard to see as they often look like a speck of dirt or a freckle. Like adult lice, nymphs must feed regularly on human blood. Nymphs mature into adults between 9 & 12 days after hatching.

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.

Symptoms 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.
A tickling feeling, like something’s moving in the hair. Excessive itching – usually caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse, although not everybody itches. Irritability and difficulty sleeping, head lice are most active in the dark

Lice Facts:•
Contracting a lice infestation is not an indication of poor hygiene – anyone can get head lice. An estimated 6-12 million American children get lice every year.

They are not a carrier of disease –over the counter or prescription lice treatments have more health risks associated with them than lice do.

Lice do not live on pets – once they’ve fallen off, or been removed from the human host, they survive for only 24 – 48 hours

They cannot jump or fly, you will not get lice from standing next to someone who has it. Lice are mostly contracted by head-to-head or hand-to-head contact as well as the sharing of brushes, hats etc.

We usually find that around 70% of the time mothers have contracted lice from their children, so remember to have yourself checked too.

Head lice are evolving and showing an increasing resistance to the over-the-counter and prescription meds.