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Can You Check Nits with Your Fingers?

Can You Check Nits with Your Fingers?
Created on 
December 28, 2017
Updated on 
December 7, 2022

Using your finger to check for and extract nits (eggs, each of which houses a baby louse) is an integral part of a lice check and can be helpful when treating an infestation. You can actually feel the nits stuck to the hair shaft; each one will feel like a bump on the hair. For many people checking for head lice on our own scalp or even that of another family member can be challenging as you are unsure of what these tiny insects look like on the head. That is where LiceDoctors experts come in and provide the help that you need.


If you decide to try on your own, when checking for head lice, it is best to start somewhere with plenty of light. Outside is best, but next to a window with sunlight is good. If that is not an option, pick the brightest room in your home or get a lamp. 

Besides bright light, these tools will be helpful for your search, diagnosis, and treatment:

  • A high quality metal fine toothed comb for checking (aka head lice comb or nit comb);
  • A regular comb with wide teeth for combing out tangles and sectioning the hair;
  • Magnifying glass or magnifying glasses (readers) to help improve the size of the image seen by the naked eye so you can best examine and identify what you find;
  • Oil to subdue the bugs and help loosen eggs which aid in combing;
  • Paper towels;
  • Bowls of soapy water into which you will dip the nit comb to remove lice as you comb.


what do does head lice eggs nits look like in on hair

Start your search looking for the nits. They are usually found within ¼ inch of the scalp and blend in which makes them a challenge to find for a novice. They can appear tan, white, brown, or black on the hair and are found on the individual strands. Since they are glued to the strands, they are difficult to remove. Pinch what you've found between your fingers and slide it all the way down the strand to remove it. To confirm that what you are looking at is a nit, place it on a white piece of paper towel. Against a white background, it will look brown or tan. The reason for that is that it has a translucent shell that houses a brown baby bug nymph. The shell may obscure the nymph in the hair giving the nit a whitish cast. It has an antenna on the front pointy end and is oval in shape. At maturity, it is the size of a sesame seed. 

The bugs are brown or translucent depending on what time their last meal was and are about the size of a sesame seed. They have 6 legs, antennae and do not have any wings. If bugs are present, they will likely be closer to the scalp as it is the warmest place on the head. Often, since they are mobile, you most likely will not see a bug until an infestation has been present for some time. Not many other species of insects make their homes on human heads, so if you suspect a lice infestation and find a bug on the head, it most likely is a louse. 

When looking for an infestation we recommend searching mainly for the nits. This will help you catch an infestation early. As mentioned, the bugs are mobile, so the likelihood of finding a couple of eggs when an infestation is in its early stages with only a couple of live bugs is much greater. The earlier an infestation is found, the easier the clean out process will be.

You may also notice some other signs of an infestation on children and adults such as red bumps on the neck, around the ears, and on the scalp. An important step in the process is to ask the person being checked if he or she has any other common place signs of lice like can you feel head lice crawling on your head or do you have a tickling feeling on the head, especially at night or other symptoms such as intense itching and sleeplessness.


Head lice can be found on any place near or on the scalp. They situate themselves on a piece of hair very close to the scalp to enjoy both the warmth and the food supply (blood) contained therein. When looking for signs, pay particular attention to the neck area, around the ears, and the crown of the head. It is a little harder to find the bugs (adult lice or nymphs) in long hair but focuses at the top of the hair, near the head, and just continue to comb down and then handpick each strand. You can use clips or other hair accessories to section the hair so that you are only working on a small section at a time. Keep in mind that you may see dandruff, which is white flakes, and that dandruff should not be confused with smaller, translucent nits.


The answer to can you feel lice in your hair varies from person to person. There are some adults and children who spend many sleepless nights because they are very sensitive to the bugs moving across their scalps. If they are allergic to the saliva secreted by lice when the bugs bite to feed, they will feel extreme itchiness on the head and the nape of their neck, as well as behind the ears. Other adults and children are oblivious to their presence and may have an asymptomatic case for months before discovering it.


how to check yourself for lice

1. Use Bright Light

You need to be able to clearly see every single louse and egg in the locks, whether you are checking a child or an adult. Make sure you have plenty of light. Ideal light is natural sunlight. If it's a nice day, go outside; if not have a bright lamp on hand.

2. Use Two Mirrors Facing Each Other to Check Your Own Scalp

This is helpful if you are wondering how to check yourself for head lice. Since these parasites are often found around the nape of the neck you want to be able to see the back of your head. Learning how to check lice on yourself is no easy task and is often better left to an expert. If you do decide to check yourself, look for anything that is translucent and stuck to the hair. To check, again pull it out and if it is brown against the white background, it is likely a nit. If it is white and flat, you have pulled out dandruff.

3. Use Fingers to Separate the Hair

Whether you have learned how to check on your own head or are checking on others, it is important to section the hair into sections about 2 inches wide so that you can comb through the section from top to bottom. Super lice have become resistant to chemical treatments such as lice shampoos so combing is an integral part of the process of lice removal. Separating the strands is an important step in how to treat lice.

4. Start Your Search Looking for the Head Lice Eggs

how to check for lice on yourself

As we have explained you are looking for sticky tiny hard bumps that are adhered to the hair. Depending on your hair color, they may look tan or whitish or may be darker. The fact that they are tiny, especially when first laid, and camouflage can make it hard to find them unless you have experience. Once you find a nit, slide it down the shaft and place it on the paper towel. It will appear brown with an oval shape and an antenna coming from its pointy end.

5. Continue with Looking for Adult Lice

It is harder to find mature bugs because they move so fast; they are sensitive to light so they run when you shine a light on the hair shafts. We recommend our simple aftercare plan to make sure that if you miss anything, you will get it after the removal process. Both at-home services such as LiceDoctors or lice clinics should have you do a simple at-home follow-up to ensure you have gotten rid of the entire infestation. While it's not always the case, if you find bugs on the head, they are likely head lice. This blog will explain in more detail what does lice look like.

6. Use a Lice Comb to Check for Lice

It is very helpful to use a combination of removal with your fingers and using a comb. Fingers are best for pulling out nits that are still stuck on after combing through with a lice comb. You can usually grab more bugs at a time if you add oil and comb through. After you complete that task, wash out the hair and then try to nit pick with your fingers. This is the winning combination for lice checking and eradication.

7. Check All the Family Members for Lice

You want to make sure that all members of the household are looked at. While it may seem that your daughter has a case but not your son, we can tell you that it is worth a check of everyone. It is very demoralizing to finally clear up one child only to have her reinfested by a child you did not check. Always keep in mind that there should be no stigma with having lice: poor hygiene is not the cause of head lice.


While checking for nits in your family may be manageable, it is usually very challenging. It is almost impossible to do a self check in check for lice on yourself. It is important to note that in over 80% of cases, if a child has it, particularly a young child, the mom has it as well.

To ensure infestations are caught in the earliest stages, we recommend checking once a week. If you find evidence, or need a hand determining if your family has an infestation, call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 and a technician will come to your home as soon as you need help. Technicians check the same way that they treat, so if an infestation is found they will do right away treat it for you. Your lice technician will have the expertise to identify, comb, and remove all vestiges of an infestation while educating you on ways to help prevent future lice infestations. Book an appointment with us today.

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