Head Lice are human parasites and are transmitted by human contact with an infected person. They are not transmitted via animals, including the family pet. The reason why is because head lice, as mentioned earlier, are a human parasite and live off of the consumption of human blood.
They are generally small in size (adults can grow as large as a sesame seed) and dark in color (usually brown) making them often times hard to detect. Adult lice females lay eggs, referred to as NITs as close as possible to the “host’s” hair shaft. The female bugs can lay up to 150 NITs in their life-cycle.
The medical term for a case of head lice is Pediculosis, or sometimes referred to as Pediculosis Capitis (infestation of the scalp with lice). They are considered to be contagious as they can be spread from one person to another, but are not considered to be a harmful disease.
Based on recent medical information, head lice do not normally carry or spread harmful diseases, and do not carry any harmful diseases. More often than not, they are best described as a nuisance than anything else.
Head Lice also do not travel through the air nor can they be transferred onto a human head from the ground. They have no ability to fly and cannot “jump” from head to head as was suspected previously.
Therefore, the most likely case of parasitic transferral is by clothing, including towels, sharing hair grooming tools such as a brush, hair barrettes, hair ties, or combs, or sleeping on the same bedding as that of an infested individual.
Water will not kill them. They go into a state of suspension, or hibernation when presented with an abundance of water such as bathing, showering, swimming, etc. and are well adapt at “hanging on” if and when necessary as is the case with water.
Adults cannot survive over 72 hours off of any given “host”. However, they can hide within furniture, clothing, or bedding within that time period so they can happily re-infest themselves onto the host’s head, or find another suitable host within that time period.
However, the NITs, or lice eggs can survive up to 14 days while not attached to a “host”.
The Life-Cycle of the Head Lice Bug
To defeat your enemy, it is always a good idea to know about them. So, it is a wonderful idea to learn about the life-cycle of the head lice bug. This will give you an idea of how to most effectively battle against them by knowing how they live and their breeding practices.
There are five stages to the life-cycle of head lice from birth to death. This process takes between 21 to 27 days to complete. They are as follows:
Stage One: They are inside the NIT (egg sack) and hatch
Stage Two: They grow and shed their outer skin (molt). This is called the First Nymph Stage.
Stage Three: They continue to grow and mature. This is called the Second Nymph Stage.
Stage Four: Continual growing and molting goes on. This is called the Third Nymph Stage.
Stage Five: The process of growth is complete. The lice bug is now an adult, or “louse” and fully mature. It can now reproduce and lay NITs.
Adult, or Louse, lice can live anywhere from 30 to 40 days after becoming an adult.
Within that time frame, a female louse can lay anywhere from 50 to 150 NITs onto any given host.
How Do I Know If I/My Child/Children Have Head Lice?
The greatest indicator that you or your child has a case of Head Lice is severe head scratching for no apparent reason or if you feel any creepy-crawly movement on your head. Another excellent indicator that you or your child may have Head Lice is receiving a notice from your child’s school. When you receive one of these, you should immediately begin searching you and your child’s head for Head Lice.
Then, you should repeat this process every couple of days for about 2-14 days as it takes time for NITs to hatch and live bugs to be present. In any event, you can begin treatment as a precaution to avoid infestation using the treatments outlined further on in this guide.
You should do this for everyone in the house if you suspect Head Lice in even one person.
How to Spot Them
Head Lice can be difficult to detect, but not impossible. Here are the main things you should be looking for, and how to look for them. . .
- As most lice generally live as close to the scalp as possible, you should begin by searching ½ an inch from the scalp itself.
- Most NITs will be found ¼ of an inch or so from the scalp and be white or off-white in color, sometimes clear. This is what makes these hard to spot. They will be oval or round shaped and will be firmly attached to the hair shaft and extremely hard to remove using your fingers unlike dandruff (many times NITs are misdiagnosed as dandruff to non-medical professionals due to the similarities in color and size).
- Louses, or adult Head Lice bugs will definitely be moving and will be dark in color, usually brown, making it harder to find them in darker heads of hair. Again, look for movement. Even though these bugs are adults they will not be large in size (about the size of a sesame seed or smaller actually) unless there is a severe infestation happening, or the bugs have had time to feed adequately.
- Most common places to find head lice are around the nape of the neck within the hair, towards the back top of the head and scalp, and around the ears.
The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.
Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles.
Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.