If you suspect a lice infestation, it is important to understand how to recognize head lice.
Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the human scalp. They are about as big as a strawberry seed (adults).
They are bloodsuckers—just as mosquitoes are. However, unlike mosquitoes, lice cannot fly or jump from one person to another; they can only crawl (very quickly). You don’t usually see live lice crawling around the head.
First Thing You’ll See
The first thing most people see are the empty nit or egg cases and they describe them as “tiny white specs that won’t move” similar looking to dandruff.
The nits that are “white” in appearance are actually empty egg casings. Nits when they are laid and viable (have a bug inside of them) appear brown in color.
People often say that head lice pictures on the internet don’t look like anything like the real thing.
These head lice pictures are magnified so that you can see what the lice bugs & lice eggs are also known as nits look like.
To the layman person nits and lice eggs are the same thing, in the scientific community lice eggs are viable (have a bug inside of them getting ready to hatch) and nits are empty egg casings. Whatever you want to call them – it’s best to remove them all.
Symptoms of Head Lice
The only symptom of head lice is an itchy head (or sometimes the sense of something crawling around) and for some people this is not the case.
Some people don’t show any symptoms of head lice.
I’m not Itchy?
Many people don’t itch because they are not allergic to the saliva the lice inject that makes us itchy.
Similar to a mosquito bite. In the event you have lice and aren’t itchy it’s usually at least week 4 before you detect them as they will begin to fall out of your hair.
The lice bug itself only has a life span of about 30 days. Get screened as soon as possible if you or someone you know is suspected to have head lice.
Head lice can survive on a human host for approximately 30 days (this is the life cycle of the human head louse). They generally cannot survive longer than 24-48 hours off the host. A female louse lays 3-5 eggs a day. The eggs hatch in 7-10 days and it takes another 7-10 days for the louse to mature and lay their own eggs.
The simple quick answer to put your mind at ease is, no. Animals cannot catch (or give) human head lice to humans. Why? Human head lice need human blood to survive. Dogs and cats can get lice however it is both respective to their individual blood type, dogs get dog lice and cats get cat lice.
Why don’t you every hear about animals getting lice? Well, it’s important to remember that human lice are not a result of poor hygiene or economic status, but animal lice most often occurs in unsanitary environments, therefore it’s not a commonly diagnosed parasite in animals in the US.
Head lice are human parasites and have probably been around since the beginning of time. They have found desiccated (dried up) head lice and their eggs (nits) on the hair and scalps of Egyptian mummies and Cleopatra is said to have a golden “lice” comb. The scientific version indicates the DNA from mitochondria of head lice cells collected form lice around the world have traced lice back to a common lineage about 2 million years ago. Scientist believe due to the relationship with humans lice can provide important information about human evolution.
Lice continue to evolve and many traditional OTC lice treatment products using Permethrin are less effective as the bugs have developed a resistance to them.
Nits are head lice eggs. Nits are difficult to see and are often confused with dandruff or hair product build up. Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval or tear drop in shape, 2-3 mm in length and usually tan, yellow or white in color. See pictures of nits.
The simple answer is no. Adult lice can live off of the head for 24-48 hours but they rarely come out of our heads unless they are dying or injured. The life cycle of the louse is only 30 days. Lice don’t live on nonhuman surfaces like carpets, hardwood floors, clothing, furniture, sports helmets, headphones or hair accessories. However, if you are confirmed with head lice, there are a few things you’ll want to do with your home to help eradicate lice. Read “How to Clean My Home During a Head Lice Outbreak”