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Basics of Head Lice: What Do Lice Look Like and How Do Lice Survive and Die?

Updated on April 10, 2017

Child getting his hair combed - LiceDoctors

Combing is an important step in lice and nit removal We received a call from a Lake Forest, Illinois pre-school teacher who suspected that some of her students had head lice. Her words were, "I am embarrassed to say this, as I feel that I should know this already, but can you please tell me over the phone what to look for in terms of head lice and eggs and how long I can expect them to last until they die? Will they go away if untreated?" Lice will not disappear if left untreated. The fact, is that lice continue to reproduce and when the hair gets very crowded, the bugs start to look to other heads. In fact, sometimes they will go from head-to-head even if the hair is not crowded. To put an end to a case of head lice, you have to kill the bugs and physically remove the eggs or nits. In order to do that it is important to know what you are looking for and something about their life cycle.

Head lice are small..very small. When they first emerge from the nits, they are tiny and as they grow they reach the size of sesame seeds. They have six legs that have claws to grip the hair. They move by crawling and they crawl quickly at a speed of 9 inches per minute. Lice are brown, not black. They reside close to the scalp where they enjoy 3 meals a day of blood at our expense. Nits are the eggs that are laid by adult female lice and they glued to strands of hair about 1/4-inch from the scalp. Nits hatch in 7–10 days. In order to eradicate an infestation, all nits must be pulled out of the hair or they will mature and hatch. After hatching, the empty shell remains attached to the hair owing to the strength of the glue. Scientists have said that the glue is chemically akin to components in human hair, making it challenging to create something that will dissolve it. When the baby bug is inside the nit, the nit looks brown. Nits can not move from head to head; only lice can do that. Picture of severe Infestation of lice eggs (nits) An adult female head louse lays an average of six to seven eggs per day and the average life span is about 32 days. Immature lice pass through three stages before becoming adults, which takes another eight to nine days. One pregnant adult female can produce enough offspring so a significant infestation can occur within a month. A child having a significant infestation has been infested for at least a month or more. People are most contagious when they have adult lice on their head. A newly-hatched nymph rarely leaves the head. Head lice lay about 6 or 7 eggs a day. They can not survive without the temperature of a human head and without the blood. Off the head, lice can live only about a day. If you are one of the at least 12 million people diagnosed with head lice each year, call us in the Chicago area at 312-765-7266, in the Metro East area at 618-307-0100, or in Central Illinois at 309-431-2545. We will make a house call to you whenever you need us. LiceDoctors' treatments work; we guarantee it!

Lice egg nit infestation - LiceDoctors