If you’ve been infested with head lice for the first time, the first place you may think to go for help is Google. But even though there are scientific and reliable sources online that have accurate information, there are just as many erroneous claims and unhelpful tips being spread about head lice, many of which are just as easy to believe. Don’t worry, Lice Clinics of America is here to share the facts! Skip the headache of analyzing pages of Google results and find the answers to your head lice questions below.
How do lice spread?
Head lice spread primarily through direct head-to-head or hair-to-hair contact. This may come as a surprise, considering that the most familiar head lice prevention tip is to avoid sharing hats, helmets, hairbrushes, and combs. Luckily, the spread of head lice through the sharing of grooming and clothing items is quite rare, and keeping your head from directly touching someone else’s—in addition to tying back long hair—is the most reliable way to avoid catching head lice.
How do lice look?
The average mature louse is about the size of a sesame seed, and their eggs and immature offspring are even smaller. Hatched lice can vary in color from tan to dark brown. Their eggs, or nits, are often white or a very light color, and can be found on the hair shaft about 1/4 inch away from the scalp. Eggs attached to the hair at a distance farther than 1/4 inch from the scalp are typically either empty or non-viable.
How do lice start? How do they reproduce?
An infestation of head lice almost always starts when lice crawl onto a new host after a few seconds of prolonged head-to-head contact. The adult female lice will begin laying four-to-eight eggs a day until they die. The new eggs will hatch after seven-to-10 days, reaching maturity approximately eight days after hatching. In these first few weeks, it’s common to have no noticeable symptoms of a head lice infestation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that it can take four-to-six weeks to feel itchy, the most common indicator of head lice. Other symptoms include a tickling sensation or feeling something moving in the hair, loss of sleep from itchiness and discomfort, and sores on the scalp that develop from scratching.
Do lice jump or fly? Do they have wings?
No, lice don’t jump or fly; they don’t have wings. They can, however, crawl quickly along the human scalp or through the hair. With their specially evolved pincers, they can hold on tight to their host and survive through activities like hair washing and swimming.
Do lice like clean hair?
Yes! Contrary to popular belief, lice actually prefer clean hair to dirty hair. The natural oils of unwashed hair can make for a less desirable home to lice.
Do lice bite or suck blood?
Yes; head lice feed solely on human blood by biting the scalp. Although they are certainly a nuisance, they are not known to cause health problems or transmit diseases through their bites.