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Symptoms of Head Lice


No head lice: right?  Sorry, not true.  While one of the main tell-tale symptoms of head lice is itching, in fact, not everyone itches from head lice.    People with lice may have several lice and be asymptomatic or may have one louse and itch a lot. Whether you are itchy or not, depends on your sensitivity to the lice bites.  This is why head lice removal can be so challenging.


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So what are the basic symptoms of head lice? In a nutshell, here are some signs of lice. Not everyone will have all of these symptoms, but these are things to look out for:

  • The most common symptom of head lice is the eggs (nits) that the bugs deposit on your hair. There may be hundreds of nits found in the hair by the time you realize that you may have contracted a case of lice. The nits stuck to your hair proximate to the scalp are the viable ones...these are the ones that are incubating nymphs (baby lice). They can range in color from whitish to brownish and show up as different colors in different color hair. They may be hard to spot as they camouflage in the hair.
  • Tickling feeling in the hair that comes from the actual movement of the bugs across your scalp. Many people do not feel bugs moving but if you have that sensation, then by all means check it out.
  • Frequent itching on the head, which is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva when the louse bites. If you notice your child scratching, take a look. 
  • Small bumps or a rash from scratching. Sometimes the sores can get infected from over-scratching. This is rare.
  • Having a hard time sleeping, because head lice are most active in the dark. This can be very annoying and even debilitating if you go for days without being able to sleep well.


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When head lice get onto your head, they feed from the human scalp; head lice need human blood to survive. The bugs feed three times a day and like mosquitoes, there are may be little bites on the scalp. When a person is sensitive to these bites, he/she will scratch. The scratching inflames the bites and the head becomes more itchy. In some cases, the child is not at all sensitive to the head lice bites and will show no symptoms of head lice at all. In those cases, a person may have the bugs and nits in the head for months before detection. There may be thousands of bugs and nits in the hair.

“Itching on the areas where head lice are present is the most common symptom. However, it may take up to 4 to 6 weeks after lice get on the scalp before the scalp becomes sensitive to the lice saliva and begins to itch. Most of the itching happens behind the ears or at the back of the neck. Also, itching caused by head lice can last for weeks, even after the lice are gone.”  HealthyChildren.Org


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The most common scenario for a child with head lice is that in the beginning (first couple of weeks) the child will show no symptoms of head lice. As the lice reproduce and the bites become more prevalent, the child will start to become itchy. Moms often feel guilty for not noticing that their children have head lice until there are quite a few bugs and nits in the hair.  We at LiceDoctors often reassure parents that their child probably did not start scratching until there were already several lice and nits in the hair. 

The other symptoms of head lice are more difficult to detect. A child with head lice will have sesame seed size eggs in the hair. These eggs (nits) are translucent and are round on one side and pointy on the other. They are stuck to the hair and must be pulled off; they do not flake off.  Every nit must be removed from the hair or you have not eradicated the case of head lice. Unless you are specifically looking for nits in the hair, you will likely not see them as they often camouflage. Finding a live bug in the hair is difficult to do. The lice move very quickly when the hair is moved. They scoot away from light.  If the case is advanced, you may see a louse crawl out of the hair.


If your child has been exposed to head lice, keep an eye out for scratching but don't rely on that symptom of head lice. Bring the child outside and look for nits in the bright light. If you find that your child has a case of head lice, you can try to pull out the nits yourself. That is a labor-intensive job; there are not short cuts. If you determine that the task is overwhelming or if you are not sure that your child has lice, it is time to bring in a lice professional. 

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LiceDoctors technicians use all natural protocols to kill the bugs and hand pick remaining nits. We will send a lice professional directly to your home (in an unmarked car) for maximum privacy and convenience. Technicians travel to all cities and towns within 60 miles of Minneapolis. Call 612-328-9210 for lice treatment on your schedule in your home. You will be relieved that you did.

Lice On The Head