Head Lice Symptoms & Prevention of Nits | Lice Eggs

What causes Head Lice

Head lice infestation is contagious- this means they are transmitted through contact with infested person. The insect crawls to reach your head where they are known to thrive. They can neither fly nor jump. On what causes head lice, here are common causes:

  • Head to head contact involving infected person
  • Sharing objects with a person infested with head lice
  • Sharing fabric items such as clothing and towel with head lice
  • They can also reach your through items like combs, headbands, caps, headphones
  • They are also able to stay up for some time in bedding and furniture

What (How) does Lice look like?

Head lice are tiny and wingless parasites that thrive in human hair, particularly on the scalp. They have become a nuisance in society today. Contrary to body lice and bed bugs that pose health hazard, head lice does not cause nor transmit disease and they are also not a sign of being unclean. Specifically, here is how head lice looks like:

  • Head lice are tiny, wingless six-legged insects that live on human scalp.
  • Color tends to resemble the color of the infested hair which makes it hard to notice them. The color range from light to dark- newly hatched are light in color.
  • They have a curved claws for tight grasping on human hair
  • They move swiftly between the hairs.
  • Adult lice is about 1/8 inch or the size of sesame seed- female is larger than male
  • They can also survive up to day without the blood meal

Lice Eggs in Hair

Nits are lice eggs the size of a flake of dandruff and oval in shape. They vary in color from gray to yellowish and whitish. Initially, they are gray in color when laid, but change to yellowish and then white when empty after hatching.

They tightly glued to hair shafts using a substance known chitin- produced by female lice for this purpose. This makes it hard to comb or wash them out of the hair.

Lice eggs take about 8-9 days to hatch into a nymph leaving the shells to remain in the hair for several months. The newly hatched lice or nymphs moves to the scalp to feed on blood for sustenance.

Symptoms of Head Lice Infection

The most common symptom of head lice infestation is itching or puritus. Itching is caused by allergic reaction of the skin to the saliva of the louse and sensitization that takes a few weeks after the initial bite.

For some sensitive people, the itching can be too severe and frustrating. Nonetheless, infestation can go unnoticed for several days in some people who do not have allergic reactions to head lice.

Some people develop tolerance to lice bites and hence do not experience itching in subsequent infestations. This explains why some people are unable to  realize lice infestation until it is too late.

Other symptoms of head lice infection include:

  • Ticklish feeling and sensation of some movements in your hair
  • Difficulty and uncomfortable sleeping that lead to irritability
  • Small red bumps on your scalp
  • Scratching of the head and related sores- these sores may also result from own body bacteria infection due openings from the scratch among other skin infections.
  • Presence of lice and nymphs on scalps and nits on hair shafts- Presence of live lice is a sure way of confirming infestation.

Since they move at a fast rate between the hair, and also tend to avoid lights, wetting your hair will help to slow down their movements thus making it easy to be noticed. Lice comb is also the most effective tool for checking lice in the hair.

Recent studies have shown that lice comb is four times most effective and twice as fast than normal visual checking for lice on the scalp. Further to that, normal visual checks for lice is usually confused with dandruff and dirt and among other debris in the hair.

Using trained personnel like school nurse and care provider is advisable. In the absence of live lice on the scalp, the presence of nits at a quarter an inch distance from the scalp could also indicate presence of head lice.

Nonetheless, any treatments for lice should only be initiated after confirmation that head lice is present to avoid unnecessary treatments.

Prevention of lice and nits

Since head lice are attracted by human smell, masking this smell using substances with repelling effects could help in keeping them away. This is simply the basis for using essential oil shampoos in prevention of lice and nits.

Furthermore, avoiding head to head contact is a natural way in prevention of lice and nits. This may not be possible in children who usually engage in sporting activities that often involve head to head contacts. In this case, nits shampoo are used to prevent lice and nits.

Nit Shampoo

Most people are using shampoos for prevention of lice and nits. However, some shampoos are not recommended because of their adverse effects. Besides, always observe instructions because there are some dos and donts. The following are common nits shampoo:

  • Coconut oil nits shampoo
  • Tea tree oil nits shampoo
  • Lavender oil nits shampoo
  • Olive oil nits shampoo
  • Commercial lice prevention shampoo

Lice Detector

Finding a live lice is the only sure way of diagnosing head lice infestation. However, as indicated earlier in this article, spotting a live lice in your hair can be too challenging due to their nature. The only way is to use lice detector comb.

These is a specially designed comb with fine teeth that can catch lice so easily. A flat faced teeth comb with teeth space at 0.2-0.3 mm apart is very effective in detecting live head lice.

They are used for both dry and wet combing- dry combing takes lesser time, but wet combing is more accurate since washing slows down movement of head lice thus becoming easier to catch on the comb.

Kids Head Lice

Lice are very common in kids because of their nature of spreading. Then, how do you treat and prevent kids head lice and nits? Protecting your kids against future lice infestation is very important to avert losing school day due to associated itching.

Always check for lice infestation in your child if you suspect she or he was exposed to lice or when they experience some form itching scalp. Lice comb or detection comb is considered an effective tool for establishing lice infestation in your kids.

In regard to prevention of kids head lice, shampoos can be used. However, lice combing is the most natural and effective methods for getting rid of kids head lice.

Head Lice Bites

After hatching, lice start feeding on scalp within 1-2 weeks. The bites are very itch and usually turn red on scratching. There can be open sores and skin infections due to excessive scratching. The itching can be severe in some people due to associated allergic reactions.

A cluster of itching spots on your scalps could be a sign of head lice infestation. Lice bites occurs anywhere on the head, but is normally concentrated in areas around the ears and back of the head since these areas are warmer than the scalp. Lice bites appears like a small bump pink or reddish in color and often clustered with blood.

Incubation Period for Head Lice

An adult head lays eggs- called nits on human scalps which takes a few days to hatch into nymphs. It takes about 8-9 days for nits to hatch into a nymph leaving the shells to remain in the hair for several months.

Life cycle of head lice

Head lice development happens in three stages in their life cycle lasting approximately 45 days. Head lice reproduce so rapidly.

A single male lice can mate as many as 18 females in a row without resting while females can mate many times from 10-40 in their adult life.

The Life Stages are:

  • Nits or lice eggs
  • Nymphs
  • Adult lice

Resistant head lice

In view of recent article in Telegraph, mutated head lice has become immune to popular remedies due to over use. They have become a nuisance and a threat to most families around the world.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Manning Children Hospital in Indianapolis have revealed that close to 98 percent of head lice are immune to common active ingredients in found in over the counter and prescription remedies such as permethrins and pyrethrins.

Consequently, they continue to frustrate parents and many children are missing school days  due effects of severe itching from head lice. The parents are indeed fighting a losing battle and have grown increasingly wary of this “indestructible” head lice.

The report authors at Indianapolis Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital have urged parents to contact clinicians for alternative treatments that could tackle nits. Meanwhile, prevention of head  lice remains the best way for dealing with the lice menace in the society.

Sources and references



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