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Can I Have Lice and Not Know It?

Can I Have Lice and Not Know It?
Updated on 
May 28, 2020

This question comes up quite often and unfortunately, the answer is YES.  Because lice are shifty little creatures, you may be infected without realizing it.  Believe it or not, many people with head lice have no idea they have it at all! Not everyone has symptoms of lice.

Not everyone reacts the same to head lice. We have seen cases where a person is driven crazy from two bugs in the hair and other cases where there are literally hundreds of lice and the person is unaware that she has it. How is that possible and why does that happen?

You May Not Have Itchy Symptoms from Head Lice

lice tips itching not always a symptom of head lice

Even though one of the major symptoms of lice is an itchy scalp and head, it is quite possible that you have lice, yet aren’t itchy at all.  Not all people have an allergic reaction to the lice or to the saliva that they secrete when they bite. The more sensitive you are to the saliva, the itchier you will be.  Also, a minor case of lice can exist without any side effects and go unnoticed for up to 6 weeks especially for firs time infestations.

In some cases “infestations may be asymptomatic. Itching may occur if the individual becomes sensitized to antigenic components of louse saliva that is injected as the louse feeds...some individuals can remain without symptoms and never itch. By the time these cases are found, they may be very advanced. ' Meinking TA. Infestations. Curr Probl Dermatol. 1999;11:73–120. [Google Scholar]

You May Not Know That You Have Lice Because The Bugs Are Tiny

Another reason you might

lice tips identify tiny louse bug infestation

miss your children or your having lice is that the lice are simply tiny and very difficult to see.  The size of a sesame seed at best, these creatures can easily be missed. As soon as the hair is moved or a light shines on the scalp, the lice run away really fast. If you blink you will miss any hair lice because they hide. It is especially hard to find lice in long, thick hair. 

Preferring the dark, lice are harder to detect in the light, avoiding it at all costs and moving quickly (which they can do) to avoid it.  And, everything is harder to detect in the dark.  A cursory look through the hair will likely leave one convinced there are no bugs to be found, especially if symptoms like itching don’t exist. The exception to this, obviously, is if a louse chooses to leave the hair while you are looking at your child’s head. This occasionally happens when bathing a child. Lice are most active at night and some people report feeling the lice move across their head at night.

Because head lice can move quickly, their detection requires expertise and experience. An Israeli study (12) with experienced parasitologists noted that combing with a fine-toothed louse comb was four times more effective and twice as fast as direct visual examination for the detection of live head lice, and hence, for the diagnosis of head louse infestations. In the study, direct visual examinations alone without combing underestimated active infestations.

Mumcuoglu KY, Friger M, Ioffe-Uspensky I, Ben-Ishai F, Miller J. Louse comb versus direct visual examination for the diagnosis of head louse infestations. Pediatr Dermatol. 2001;18:9–12. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Believe it or not, lice also have the amazing ability to camouflage.  Yes, lice can change color.  Upon feeding, they take on a reddish color because of the blood recently ingested. They also can range in color from brown or grey or whitish, and they can alter their color to appear darker or lighter to match the hair color which they inhabit -- making them, because of their size AND blending color, very difficult to detect. 

Nits (Lice Eggs] Are Not Easy To Find Either

lice tips identify what do eggs nits look like

Nits present their own challenges to being found in the hair. They range in color from a white-tan to brownish. They can do an excellent job of camouflaging in the hair, as well.  While bugs bite and, therefore, may trigger

lice tips eggs nits hard to see how to identify

an awareness that you have something going on on your head, nits are inert. That’s right; they are glued to the hair near the scalp and they do not move and they do not bite. They stay in one place and if you were to move your fingers up and down the hair strand you would feel the nit; it feels like a hard bump stuck to the hair. The nit has a strong, hard shell that protects the baby louse (nymph) that is incubating within the egg. If you are not already aware that you have lice, you might not even notice these nits or you might attribute them to debris, dandruff, or dry skin.

Nits can even be confused with dry skin from weather conditions, or with dirt…which a child might have in her hair after a game of tag or running around in the playground. Some people see nits and assume that they are looking at dandruff or hair spray flakes or any number of hair products that decide to get weird in your hair. DEC plugs which are white and sticky small particles in your hair may also be mistaken for nits or vice versa. DEC plugs are secretions from oil glands when the glands get blocked.

In-Home Remedy For Lice Treatment

The above scenarios illustrate why it is imperative that a good lice check be done to determine if one or more cases exist among your family members. A new set of hands and eyes along with a head check, done by a professional lice removal technician, offers the ultimate verdict, not only if there’s lice in the family, but that it will be eradicated properly. LiceDoctors will send a very skilled and experienced lice technician to your house. She will thoroughly go through you hair and your family’s hair to determine if you definitely have a case of head lice. Next she will apply oil and, using a professional grade comb, she will comb out both lice and nits. The process is methodical and it works...every time.  The last step is where she employs most of her skill and that is that she will recheck the hair, extracting any remaining nits from the hair. These are the tiny ones that the comb missed and that you would likely miss if you were treating on your own.  Once, she has completed her treatment, she will give you a straightforward follow-up plan that will ensure that the lice and nits are gone and will not return. This professional treatment is the best way to kill lice at home. 

For treatment in your area, call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537. Your lice professional will make a house call whenever you want, day or night, weekdays and weekends. Prices are lower than salon pricing and we have 500,000 happy successfully treated clients to back us up!

We provide a friendly in-home lice removal service

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