What Do Head Lice Look Like?

When your child is bringing head lice home, the first thing you’ll want to do is check if this is really head lice. And your first question will probably be: What does head lice look like? This will depend if we are looking for adult lice, nymphs, or head lice eggs, also called nits. In this article we’ll focus on adult head lice. The louse is a small insect without wings, whose body is flattened. His abdomen is wider than the rest of his body. Females are usually larger than males. As lice have no wings, they cannot fly.   A louse has six legs, but cannot jump. It moves quickly though, at the speed of 23 centimeters per minute under normal conditions. It clings to the hair tightly with its three pairs of short legs, in fact with the hook like a claw that they have at the end of each leg. Watch this video to see an adult louse moving in the hair, and you’ll discover what head lice look like in the hair:   What size and color are head lice? Adult head lice measure between 2 and 4 millimeters. This is about the size of a sesame seed. This is tiny, but head lice can still be seen by the naked eye. The adult louse is tan to grayish-white in color. The color of head lice is white, but once the louse is soaked with blood, it turns red or black.   Lice can be hard to spot when not moving, but here are a few tips to help you detect them: scrutinize the head...

What are the common symptoms of head lice?

If you have just received a notification from the school announcing an outbreak of head lice, it is very likely that whenever your child will be scratching his head you’ll begin to think that he has head lice. In order to avoid an overreaction and a wrong diagnosis, it is crucial that you understand what are the symptoms of head lice. The 2 major symptoms of head lice First, it is important to understand that a symptom is not equivalent to a disease. Having a symptom does not mean you have the associated disease, and many different diseases can be associated to the same symptom.   A symptom is something not normal in the body functioning noticed by a patient, indicating the presence of a disease or abnormality. As far as head lice is concerned, there are only two major head lice symptoms, and these are: An itchy scalp caused by head lice bites. A tickling feeling of something moving or crawling in the hair. Sores on the head can be a sign of head lice, but it is less commonly observed. Seeing a living louse or a nit on the hair is not a symptom, it is already a diagnosis of head lice. Sometimes there are no head lice signs at all There might be no symptoms of head lice at all. Sometimes the infested person will not feel anything move in his head, and his scalp will not scratch either. We regularly see kids that start having symptoms only 4 to 6 weeks after being infested. Why? When the louse feeds on our scalp it needs to...

Lice Eggs vs Dandruff: How Can You Tell?

When you receive a school notice about head lice, or when you want to check your child for lice, you don’t always know what lice eggs look like. How do lice eggs vs dandruff look? How can you tell the difference? When you look at your child’s head, you see some white flecks the size of a sesame seed: are they nits, or are they just dandruff or hair debris? The main difference between head lice eggs and dandruff is that lice eggs are glued to the hair shaft; they are firmly attached to the hair, and are not easily removed. On the contrary, dandruff is not attached to the hair and can be easily brushed off. Dandruff is a common form of skin eczema, also called Seborrheic dermatitis. It is thought to be caused by an overproduction of oil by the skin, and it is called dandruff when it affects the scalp. Dandruff looks like thick, falky, white to yellowish localized patches of scale, and can occur together with red, irritated skin.   Lice eggs are like white to yellowish dots on your hair, the size of a sesame seed. They are 0.8 millimeter long and 0.3 millimeter wide. What happens is that lice eggs have a grey or caramel color when they are laid by the female louse, and they turn yellowish to white when they are empty. So, the color is not always the same, and that’s why it should not be your only criteria when looking for head lice eggs. Nits can indeed be very difficult to see. After they hatch, the shell of the...

Do Lice Jump?

When you get head lie or when your children bring lice back from school or Sports clubs, the first questions that pops into your mind are: how did they get this? Can head lice jump from one’s head to another’s? Do lice jump? The truth is that head lice are human parasites that, contrary to many other insects, cannot jump. They just don’t have the ability to do so. So, do lice jump? No, because they can’t. Head lice cannot jump because their legs do not allow them to do so.   Let’s take a look at the magnified picture of a louse just below: Gilles San Martin – CC BY-SA 2.0 As you can see on the picture, each one of the louse’s 6 legs has claws at its end. With such claws, lice are totally unable to jump. What they can do is use these claws to crawl on the hair, and to crawl from one hair to another hair. If you have also been asking yourself if lice can fly, you also have the answer by looking at the above picture: lice have no wings, so they obviously cannot fly. The only thing they can do is crawl: they don’t walk, they don’t jump, they don’t hop, they don’t swim, and they don’t fly. This is why head lice get transmitted only by contact between an infested hair and a non-infested one. Head-to-head contact is thus the #1 mode of transmission of head lice. Transmission of head lice can also occur between hair with a live louse on it that has fallen on the floor, or...

Itchy Scalp: Is It Head Lice?

An itchy scalp can be incredibly irritating, particularly if it has been causing discomfort for an extended period. Whilst the temptation to scratch the area is very strong, you are as likely to inflame the situation further as you are to relieve your symptoms. It is important that you understand while you have an itchy head: is it head lice, or something else? Many people, especially if they have children at school, think of lice when their scalp or their kid’s head is itching. But there are many other causes of itchy scalp, and there is no need to panic.   First, you need to understand the common causes of the itching sensation in order to know if you have head lice, dandruff or something else. In most cases, the irritation is caused by inflamed skin, possibly relating to a mild infection. In this case, scratching the area can cause the symptoms to spread across a wider area of the scalp, very rapidly making the problem worse. Some people can suffer with the itchy scalp symptom at the stage in their life where their hair changes, perhaps when hairlines recede in men, or for women during pregnancy where hair may thicken or fall out and become more thinly spread. Often doctors will see a redness of the scalp, which can be caused by infection or scratching, so it is important to inform your doctor if you have been using your hands to try to reduce the irritation. One often overlooked cause of the tingling sensation can be dandruff, which is a fairly mild version of the condition, sometimes caused...

What Is Lice? – Lice Infestation Basics

What is lice? Lice are parasitic insects that live on the human hair and scalp, body and pubic area. They survive on human blood. The head lice, body lice and pubic crab lice are completely different from each other. Among them, only the body louse is known to spread diseases. Lice infestation commonly spreads through close personal contacts.   Different types of lice: Head lice: Head lice infestation is commonly known as pediculosis and spreads through close person-to-person contact. Head lice infect the head and neck and lay their eggs on the base of the hair shaft. They cannot fly or hop but move by crawling. The female louse lays its eggs on the hair and glues the eggs onto the hair shaft with glue that it secretes from its body. This secretion is very similar to the keratin of the hair, and the louse attaches its eggs at an optimum distance from the scalp so that it is at the right temperature for hatching. The eggs hatch in around seven to ten days. The eggs hatch into a nymph which remains attached to the hair. A female louse lays about three to four eggs daily, that is more than seventy eggs in her life span. Adult lice live for about four weeks (see head lice life cycle for more details). The quick multiplication is the main reason why lice are able to infest a person’s hair very quickly.   Fortunately the human head louse is not a disease carrier, and it is possible to treat it easily. Getting rid of lice is not that difficult, but keeping them...

How to Check for Lice

Finding head lice can be a very daunting task. It is something that many parents do not want to do. However, each parent needs to learn how to check for lice.   If you receive a note from the school stating that head lice is going around, finding them as soon as possible is essential in order to get rid of them fast. This also helps to make sure that your child does not pass them to anyone else. How to check for head lice: identifying live lice and nits First, you need to make sure that you have lice and not dandruff or something else. Checking for lice means you are going to examine the infested person’s scalp and hair and try to see with the naked eye some adult lice, nymphs or head lice eggs. Here is some detailed information about which insects you should be looking for. Head lice are parasites that live in the scalp and hair of humans. The medical term for head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis, and the infestation is commonly known as pediculosis. The most common symptoms of head lice include frequent scratching of the head and sudden appearance of dandruff-like flecks in the hair close to the scalp. The most obvious head lice symptom is an itchy scalp, which is caused by the saliva of the lice in the spot where the blood is drawn. These parasitic insects develop in 3 forms namely: nits, nymphs, and adults. Nits are the eggs of head lice. They are quite hard to see and are often mistaken as droplets of hair spray or...

Where Do Lice Come From?

 When your child comes back from school with head lice, maybe the first question you are asking yourself is this one: “How did lice come to OUR family?” And you start thinking which of your child’s friends had head lice, and who actually had head lice in the first place. Where do lice come from? And if they only leave on humans, where do head lice come from originally? Rest assured, lice do not come from animals. They are transmitted ONLY between humans. The human head louse is an ectoparasite, which means it lives on the surface of his host. It is an insect that lives on the human scalp and feeds on human blood. The entire life of lice is spent on the human scalp.   According to research, head lice have been spreading among humans for thousands of years. Evidence of lice has been found on prehistoric mummies, and lice have been described in ancient Egyptian and Greek books of medicine. They were at the time already considered as “a source of irritation and disgust”. Today, it is a common problem in many parts of the world. In the US alone around 10 million people a year are treated for head lice. 80% of them are children aged three to twelve. How did lice get on your kid’s head? Lice are not good at walking or jumping, they can only crawl. They have six legs like other insects but these are adapted for clinging on to the hair rather than walking. They avoid light and prefer to remain inside the hair close to the scalp. So how...