What is Head Lice?

 

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What is Head Lice?
If you are searching for 'what is head lice?' hopefully the below will detail everything you need to know. If not, please navigate back to our homepage where there is a lot more information! 'Head lice' refers to more than one 'head louse' (or Pediculus humanus capitis as they are scientifically classified). They are also commonly described as 'nits'. Nits are tiny, wingless ectoparasites that live and feed on the human head. Similarly to fleas, they bite the skin and draw blood to survive. Head lice are one of over 3000 species of louse (Order: Phthiraptera) and fall into the Anoplura Suborder (sucking lice). The head louse has a three stage life cycle, all of which take place on the human head, it is a worldwide problem (mainly in children) and unlike the body/pubic louse, it does not carry infectious diseases.

What color is Head Lice?
You may have heard people in the past say that head lice only infest dirty hair or those who are unhygienic? Well, we can confirm that they will infect any human head, clean or dirty as they are looking for a blood meal and then to multiply, so nobody is safe! Below we look at how you can catch head lice, how you can get rid of them and how you can prevent head lice, but firstly, to begin answering 'what is head lice' we could start by looking at their body. Head lice have no wings, so they cannot fly, they cannot jump or hop, they have special mouths designed for sucking blood, they have six legs with claws for clinging to their host, they range in size from 1-2mm and range in color from whitish grey to dark reddish brown. Please take a look at our Image of Lice page for a better understanding.

What is the life cycle of Head Lice?
Female adult head lice feed, mate and then lay their eggs. The eggs are attached to the base of hair shafts with sticky saliva/glue (saliva so sticky that everyday shampoos will not wash them off). Their eggs are positioned as close to the scalp as possible in cooler climates as this is the ideal environment for them to develop (warm and protected). However, in hotter climates around the world, you can find eggs placed inches away from the scalp proving that the temperature plays a very important part of the cycle. The head lice eggs will hatch into Nymphs (miniature versions of adults) who then go through further moulting before reaching adulthood. Therefore when checking for nits, you should be looking for eggs (also referred to as 'nits'), nymphs and adults. Live adult head lice confirm an infestation and need for treatment.

What is Head Lice?

what is head lice caused by
 

What is Head Lice caused by?
Head lice are caught via close head-to-head contact with someone already infested and sometimes via the sharing of combs, brushes, towels, pillows, hats and scarves. School children who spend all day together in close proximities are therefore most at risk of becoming infected and spreading head lice (usually 3-12 year olds). Sharing time on school buses, in classrooms, after-school clubs and sports teams all encourage close head to head contact and this is when head lice could craw onto fresh heads. For the rest of the family or friends, head lice can then be brought into the home and spread through similar means (brushes, etc). Many outbreaks and epidemics are often started as people do not know they have head lice. Some people have little or no signs so they go on as if nothing's wrong - however, others may have light to severe skin irritation, red bumps and white specs in the hair (similar to dandruff).

What is the best treatment for Head Lice?
If you are unlucky enough to catch head lice, you need to learn how to get rid of them as soon as possible. It should not be embarrassing to admit you have head lice as it could happen to anyone and you will need to ensure that everyone you have been in close contact with is made aware. This is so they can check their own heads and seek any necessary treatment (family, friends, neighbours, etc). Your local pharmacy will have many over-the-counter products that can be applied to the head or if the infestation is severe you may need to have a medicated product prescribed by your doctor. Click on this link for treatments for head lice or here for head lice remedies. It may take a couple of applications to get rid of some strains head lice, but perseverance will be needed.

 

 

 

What is the cause of Head Lice?
To prevent head lice, close head-to-head contact and sharing of brushes, hats, etc should be avoided (certainly by your children). Regular washing and hygiene may not 100% prevent lice, but it will help keep the chances down and also allow any lice to spotted earlier. Performing regular checks of the hair, using a nit comb, may also reduce the risk of major outbreaks in schools and communities. There were times when the school nurse would call every child in for a check-up; however this seems to have disappeared in latter years as it did nothing to prevent the issue. Understanding what these parasites are, how they are caught, how to check for them and how common they are is a good preventative step. Educating the young and old so they do not expose themselves to the risk of head lice will help stop major outbreaks.

Thousands of people search to find out about different types of louse and how to get rid of them. Fortunately there are so many products available on line, you should be able to find what you want without too much of a problem. We hope that you have found this article a useful guide and that any questions you may have had have been answered. You will find that this website is a great resource, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by these parasites and we hope you have located the treatment you may need, be it a comb, lotion, cream, medication or shampoo. Treatments and remedies should be sought after quickly and if you have crabs you should seek medical advice so they cannot be spread or infect others.

What is Head Lice?

What is the life cycle of Head Lice?

  • Combs, Liquids, Lotions, Insecticides and Medication for control
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  • Symptoms of nits? Search our information on Combs!
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  • What is a louse? Take a look at our explanations

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What is Head Lice? - Getting Rid of Lice