Updated on July 24, 2020
By: Karen Keavey
Original Post Date: January 18, 2017
Updated: July 1, 2020
So you just received a phone call or text message from your child’s friend. “I am so sorry, my child has lice. You should probably check your child, too.” If your child has been lice- free up to this point, you may wonder how long it will be until you know for sure your child does not have head lice. Or, if you find your child does have lice, perhaps you wonder how long he or she has had it. We can help narrow it down.
The Lice Exposure Timeline
It can be difficult to determine whom you child got lice from, where they got it, and how long your child has had a case of head lice. By gaining an understanding of the general life cycle of lice, and comparing it to how many bugs and nits you find on your child during treatment, you may be able to narrow down the time period in which your child was exposed.
After a mature, female louse has made its way onto your child’s head, it will climb all the way to the end of the strand of hair where it connects with the scalp to feed. After the louse takes a little bit of time to make itself at home, it will lay eggs directly on the strands of hair, usually 6-10 a day. A louse lives about 30 days, with the reproduction phase of its life beginning around day 7 -14. This means that the average louse lays anywhere from about 100-200+ eggs over the span of its life. These eggs take anywhere from 7-10 days to hatch. As these eggs hatch, the severity of the case of lice multiplies exponentially until it is addressed effectively by thoroughly removing all live bugs and every single egg from the hair. If you find only a few nits, then your case is very new. If you see hundreds of nits and bugs, you may have been infested for weeks or even months.
How Long Does It Take Nits To Appear?
If your child has been lice-free up until this point, it is important to keep a close eye and check his or her head regularly for signs of a lice infestation. If just one mature female louse has made it onto your child’s head, it is enough to start an infestation on its own. Since the bug is mobile and will run from the light as you check your child’s head, chances are you will never see the bug. What you will want to look for is the eggs. You will probably be able to see those eggs about 3-5 days after they are laid, or after initial contact with a louse, as they grow large enough to be visible. Check out our blog “How to Check For Lice Eggs (Nits)” to see what you should be looking for. If you find eggs, then congratulations, you have successfully found the case of head lice very quickly which will make this case of head lice much easier to treat!
How Long Does It Take Lice To Show Up?
You will not find a live bug on your child’s head immediately after infestation in the majority of cases, especially if it is just one bug. Some individuals are very sensitive to everything going on on their head, so in the case of someone who is especially sensitive, you might set out on a more extensive search and find a bug much earlier. However, this is extremely rare, especially to a head lice newbie. In many cases, people do not feel any itching or have any other obvious signs of head lice. Often, bugs are not discovered until an infestation has reached the moderate to severe levels. So, if you are able to find a live bug and several nits on your child’s head, the case of head lice has likely been present for quite some time...a month or more in many cases. Also noteworthy, is the fact that in some cases, a single louse may have simply taken a vacation on your child’s head before returning to the original host or moving on to another stop on its excursion. If that louse was present on your child’s head long enough to just lay 2 eggs, an infestation will follow unless it is detected early.
So What Should You Do?
If you’ve been notified by someone that your child has had contact with someone who has head lice, your first inclination may be to run to the store to buy a lice treatment kit. This is not necessary, especially if you have not confirmed that your child does, in fact, have a case of head lice. If there are no bugs or nits present, then the treatments will do nothing but expose your child needlessly to pesticides that will not be effective and may bring along side effects. Even if there are nits present in the hair, the chemical lice treatments will do nothing to address these nits as chemical lice treatments are unable to get through the tough outer shell of the nit to kill the baby bug within.
The best thing to do is to check your child’s head immediately and thoroughly to look for any signs of head lice, particularly the presence of nits. Make sure you have good lighting, outdoors is a great idea, and some form of magnification. Carefully look through your child’s hair focusing on the back of the head towards the nape of the neck and behind the ears, scanning for any lice eggs that may be present. Continue to check your child’s head regularly every few days to ensure you catch any signs of lice as soon as possible. If you do, in fact, find lice, LiceDoctors can save you time and money no matter how long the case has been there.
LiceDoctors Can Eradicate a Case at Any Stage of Infestation
LiceDoctors technicians are experienced in the detection and eradication of head lice, and can get rid of a case of head lice in the earliest of stages. If you’ve identified a case of head lice and would like help getting rid of it, or if you are not confident in your ability to detect a case of head lice and need some assistance, call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537. We are available morning, afternoon and evening and ready to help!