Head Lice

About Head Lice

What are head lice?

Head lice are small six-legged insects that live on human hair and feed on blood that is in the skin of the scalp. They are about the size of a sesame seed, and blend in with the hair, making it very difficult to identify under normal circumstances.

Head lice are different from body lice and pubic lice, and live only on the human scalp. Their claws are designed to hold on to strands of hair. A female louse after, mating lays eggs, which takes roughly 10 days until they in turn become adults that can reproduce. As each female can lay up to 150 eggs in her lifetime, once a lice infestation starts, it can get out of hand quickly without treatment.

Head lice are extremely common in children between the ages of 3 and 12. They are generally spread through hair to hair contact, although they can also spread via shared combs, hats, or other hair accessories. It is thought that this is the reason that girls tend to be more susceptible, as they are more likely to use and share combs and other hair accessories.

How do I know if I have head lice?

Lice can initially be difficult to identify. Although they are large enough to be visible to the naked eye, they can be difficult to identify unless closely looked at. The most common symptom of head lice is the itching. The itching is actually caused by the immune system reacting to the saliva and the waste products from the lice, and not caused by the lice activity itself. For this reason, it can take several weeks before the itching starts as the immune system requires time to identify the threat.

  • Itching sensation/scratch marks
  • Scaling of the scalp
  • Presence of eggs (or nits)
  • There may be an infestation at the school your child attends
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