What are lice?

Lice are six-legged wingless insects measuring between 2-3 millimeters, about the size of a sesame seed. They can vary in color from grayish white to reddish brown and have the ability to adapt their color to their environment.While they cannot jump or fly, head lice can crawl quickly along the hair shaft.

As parasites, they depend on human blood for survival and must have a “blood meal” (at the scalp) every two to three hours to survive.The female has a lifespan of up to 30 days, during which time she can produce between three and 10 eggs (nits) per day, attaching them to the hair shaft, generally close to the scalp where environments are the warmest. Nits may look like dandruff but can vary in color from whitish to tan to even reddish brown, making them hard for an untrained eye to recognize and see. (It should be noted that viable nits – those that may hatch and perpetuate the head lice lifecycle, are plump and dark in color.)  They are attached to the hair with a sticky glue-like protein substance which forms a bond that is difficult to break without specialized products and techniques. Nits hatch approximately 7 to 10 days after they’re laid. Baby lice are known as nymphs, and they become adult lice between approximately 12 to 15 days after hatching. Adult lice mature to about the size of a sesame seed.Though very small, lice can be seen with the naked eye. Nymphs and nits are even smaller and it may require an expert to identify them with certainty.

Who gets lice?

The CDC reports that somewhere between 6 and 12 million people in the United States are infested annually.  Children from 3 to 11 years old are particularly susceptible, no one is immune and anyone can get head lice.  All socioeconomic classes are affected.  Some research concludes that girls are more commonly infested, but neither hair length nor personal hygiene is a predictive factor. Lice, in fact, prefer clean hair, since it’s easier to adhere to than oily hair.  No one knows why some people are more prone than others to having head lice, but blood type and Rh factor seem to be elements.

How do I get rid of lice?

Specialized products that immobilize the live lice and nymphs and then break the bond between the hair and the glue-like substance that holds the nit to the hair shaft must be used. Also, manual nit removal, which is the process of going strand-by-strand through the hair to physically remove the nits, is the only way to ensure head lice are completely removed.

Be careful about products and services that claim to KILL HEAD LICE. Most products would need to be placed on the head for an extended period of time in order to actually kill an adult louse or a maturing nymph, and most of the products that do so are toxic in nature. Additionally, research proves that NO product can kill 100% of the eggs (nits).