Did You Know?
- About half of all infested individuals do not know they have lice.
- Four out of five infested individuals will not feel an itching sensation from a head lice infestation.
- Head lice infestations are most common among Pre-School and Elementary School children.
- The food of head lice is human blood.
- Only adult lice are capable of changing hosts and starting a new colony.
- Girls are much more likely to become infested with head lice than are boys.
- Female head lice live about 30 days while males live about 15 days.
- Only several weeks after infestation does one feel an itching sensation.
- The female head louse can lay between 5-10 eggs per day.
- On average, an infestation is diagnosed after 4 weeks.
- Head lice can live no longer than 55 hours without human blood.
Lice can spread by jumping or flying.
No! Head lice do not jump, fly or swim. They are good crawlers, however, and will readily move from one person to another when the hair of the two people is in contact.
Children get head lice from schools.
Although children can certainly come into contact with other children who have head lice at school, it is not the only place where a transmission might occur. Children can get infested by head-to-head contact summer camps, sleepovers, and home.
Getting lice is a sign of poor hygiene.
Anyone with hair can get lice. A person’s degree of cleanliness or personal hygiene has little or nothing to do with getting head lice. A common misconception is that lice infestation is a result of poor hygienic practices. In fact, head lice actually seem to prefer clean hair over dirty hair.
Head lice can’t be seen by the naked eye.
Head lice can be seen by the naked eye but it can be very difficult. Adult lice will be the easiest to spot because they are the biggest. But at the size of a sesame seed, they still aren’t that big. Although lice vary in color, if you see a grayish-white or tan bug crawling through the hair, it is probably a louse. If you look closely at an adult louse, you should be able to see human blood inside it.
Head lice can spread disease if not treated quickly.
There are no reliable data to suggest that head lice carry or transmit disease organisms. However, DNA technology shows head lice to be the same species as the notorious body louse which has long been associated with diseases such as typhus and relapsing fever. It may be possible for head lice to carry diseases, but no cases have been reported.
Itchy head means your child has head lice.
While itchy scalp may be a symptom of head lice it is not a definitive sign your child has lice. Itchy scalp can be caused by many things including dandruff or general dry skin.
You can get head lice from your pets.
Lice cannot be transmitted from pets, and pets cannot get them from people.
Head lice can be caught by swiming.
When lice are in water, they go into a state of suspended animation but remain firmly locked onto the hair. This is how they survive shampooing, rain, seawater, and swimming pools. Risk of transmission will occur with the sharing of towels.
Only children can get head lice.
While it’s more commonly spread among children, parents and other adults are not immune.
When hair has contact with another’s hair (and it will), if that person has lice and you are a favorable environment, you take the risk of exposing yourself to an uninvited houseguest.
Common Myths About
The Facts of Lice
Where do head lice come from?
Head lice have been around for millions of years and dried up lice and their eggs have been found on the hair and scalps of Egyptian mummies! Head lice do not come out of the air or from the ground. They are human parasites that feed on blood and travel from one head to another. Head Lice are uniquely adapted to be on a human head. They would never choose to come off of a head and onto a pillow, hat, chair, etc.
How are head lice spread?
Head lice can be spread whenever there is direct head-to-head contact with an infested individual. Lice may also be transmitted by items such as hats, hair ties, scarves, pillows, etc. However, this type of transfer is probably quite rare.
Is it possible to get head lice from sharing a pillow or hat with a person who has head lice?
Lice cannot typically survive off of a human host longer than 24 hours and they are uniquely adapted for living in human head hair. They generally do not like to leave the protected environment created within head hair.
What are the symptoms of head lice?
Head lice are most commonly found on the scalp, behind the ears and near the neckline at the base of the head. Symptoms include a tickling sensation or feeling something moving through the hair. An allergic reaction to the bites causes itching. Viable eggs are usually located within 1/4 inch (6mm) of the scalp.
What do head lice and their eggs look like?
The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Nymphs (baby lice) are smaller, and can be black, clear, or even blood red. Lice eggs, often called nits, look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear. Nits are literally glued to the hair shaft and are very difficult to remove.
What can be done to get rid of head lice and the eggs?
Clinical trials have shown the AirAllé® device, which uses carefully controlled heated air, is a safe treatment that is highly effective at not only killing the live lice but also their eggs.
Increasing numbers of consumers are finding that the most popular treatments for head lice – including chemical shampoos and home remedies – are largely ineffective. Head lice are rapidly evolving chemical resistance to many of the traditional pesticide-based control methods (which have never been able to kill eggs (nits) effectively and usually require repeated treatments). Louse combs can be effective for removing lice and eggs, but the comb-out process can be very tedious, and many busy parents do not have the time or patience for effective combing. In desperation, some parents resort to home remedies such as bug spray, mayonnaise or kerosene, but there is little hard evidence that these remedies are effective, and some home remedies can actually be harmful. As a result, parents and school authorities are searching for a safe, fast and effective treatment that will solve the problem and help keep children in or quickly return them to school.
What is the life cycle of head lice and their eggs?
Eggs: Eggs are laid by adult female lice and usually take about a week to hatch into nymphs.
Nymphs: Nymphs are immature lice that mature into adults about a week after hatching from the egg.
Adults: Adult lice can live about 30 days on a person’s head. If they come off the host, they usually die within 24 hours. Female adult lice lay 4 to 8 eggs per day and can lay 100 or more eggs during their lifetime. The eggs are glued to hair shafts and hatch in 4-10 days. It takes another 9-12 days for the female louse to mature. She mates 24 hours later and starts laying eggs.
What is the difference between an egg and a nit?
There is not a difference although a nit is usually referred to as the empty shell and the egg as a viable egg. Sometimes people refer to one or the other in relation to its viability.
How can I tell if the nits are dead or alive?
Although a microscope would be able to show you whether an egg is empty or not, there is no way to tell whether a non-empty shell is viable or not.
What are some steps I can take to help prevent and control the spread of head lice?
Avoid head to head contact during play, sleepovers, or other activities at home, school, and elsewhere. Do not share combs, brushes or towels used by an infested person. Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons or barrettes. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person used or wore during the previous 2 days using a hot water laundry cycle and high heat drying cycle. Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Do I have to treat everyone if only one person is found to have head lice?
It is very common for close family or friends of infested individuals to also have lice. It is suggested that you check everyone in the household. You do not want to treat anyone who does not have lice, however many clients who have a family member with lice will choose to have a dimethicone oil treatment. This treatment, which is completely non-toxic, is a quick and easy way to kill any small bug that may be in the hair, but is very hard to find.
How do I treat my home for head lice?
Vacuum the carpet and furniture; wash bedding and clothing in very hot water; place pillows in a dryer at highest heat setting for 20 to 30 minutes; boil hair ties/hair brushes for 10 to 20 minutes or freeze them in a plastic bag overnight. Head lice cannot survive off of a human head for more than 24 hours. It is recommended that you do not use pesticide sprays in your home; they will unnecessarily expose your household to harmful chemicals.
What about combs, Brushes, and Hair accessories?
You can place them on the top rack of the dishwasher or soak items in HOT (not boiling) water for 20 minutes. You can also put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours.
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