How Did these Head Lice Get so Out of Control so Fast? (or How Long Have we Had Head Lice?)

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By Jacque Evans

LiceDoctors clients often want a timeline for their head lice troubles so they can pin down exactly when and where they contracted the loathsome little bugs. Unfortunately there is usually no definitive cut and dried answer, but we can give you some clues to help narrow down the window of exposure. Sometimes there is a clear source and answer such as “two weeks ago at that sleepover” or when all the cousins come down with lice after a family gathering. But most of the time it takes some Sherlock Holmes level sleuthing to figure out when they first arrived.

The key to how long the lice have been around lies in the life cycle of these sneaky little buggers. Almost every case of lice starts with a single pregnant female louse who climbs onto a new head from someone else who had an active case of lice who was in very close head-to-head contact.  This one bug will start laying eggs, 6-10 a day, but for many many days, she is all alone. It takes about 7 days for a louse egg or nit to develop, mature, and hatch into a baby nymph louse. So for 7 days our lonely single louse is hanging out, eating (we know, that’s not pleasant to think about, but that’s what they do!) and laying eggs.  But here’s the thing: almost no one notices the infrequent bites of a single bug.

So let’s look at the following hypothetical timeline:

  • Day 1 – There is a single adult louse (that crawled or fell from someone with an active case of lice).
  • Day 2 – There is a single adult louse and let's estimate 7 eggs.
  • Day 3 – There is a single adult louse and about 14 eggs.
  • Day 4 – There is a single adult louse and about 21 eggs.
    (You can see where we’re going with this right?)
  • Days 5-7 our single adult louse can rack up A LOT of eggs, as many 50 or more.
    (It is at this point that those first eggs start hatching. When they are first hatched, nymphs are tiny and honestly sort of wimpy. They aren’t able to move very far and they are not reproductively mature, which means that they can’t yet lay eggs or perpetuate a new case of lice.)
  • Day 8 – We now have a single adult louse and as many as 7 tiny baby nymph lice.
  • Day 9 – There is one adult bug and as many as 14 tiny baby nymph lice.
    (I think you can see where this is going too. It escalates even more quickly from here!)
  • Day 14 – About two weeks after exposure, give or take a day or two, that single bug may have multiplied into many adult lice (mature and ready to start reproducing and laying eggs of their own), as well as many more nymphs and many hundreds of nits.
  • Day 21 – Three weeks after exposure we can find dozens of adult lice and thousands of nits all from a single original bug.

It’s important to note that no two cases of lice progress exactly the same and these numbers are theoretical at best. Regrettably, we can’t give you an exact timeline for when you picked up the lice, usually the most we can say “this is an early case, just a couple of weeks” or “this is a moderate case, perhaps a few weeks or a month” and sometimes, “this has been brewing for a while, probably several months or more”.

We want to emphasize that even very advanced cases don’t necessarily indicate a lack of awareness. Remember, not everyone itches when they have an active case of lice; most people do itch, but not everyone does. It is very common not to notice a case of lice until the insidious little critters have been multiplying for weeks or even months.

LiceDoctors has experience in treating even the most advanced cases of lice. Whether you’ve had them for a few days, a few weeks, a few months or even a few years, we are ready, willing and able to help you get rid of them. Call 720-292-1991 today for fast, all natural, discreet, and most importantly, EFFECTIVE head lice treatment.