Facts of Lice

Answers to commonly asked questions about head lice

Q: What are head lice?

Head lice are wingless insects spending their entire life on the human scalp and feeding exclusively on human blood. Humans are the only hosts of this specific parasite.

Q: Are head lice dangerous or carry diseases?

NO, head lice do not carry diseases. In severe cases, head lice can cause a red itchy rash or sores; which left untreated, can cause secondary infections though. There are also several different types of lice we should mention: Head Lice, Body Lice & Pubic Lice. Of these three, only body lice carry diseases. The three do not interbreed. All are highly contagious.

Q: What are the symptoms of head lice?

There are many indicators that you or your child may have a head lice infestation. These include a tickling feeling like something is moving around in the hair; itching caused by an allergic reaction to the bites, sores on the head from scratching, small red bite marks on the scalp or a red rash on the back of the neck.

Q: What are these "SUPER LICE OR MUTANT LICE" I keep hearing about?

Research scientists have found that head lice have now evolved to the point where over the counter and even prescription head lice treatments are no longer effective. Super Lice or Mutant Lice are not larger than regular head lice and are not a new breed of lice. They have just grown immune to products like RID, NIX, KWELL and store brand lice treatments.

Q: What are nits?

Mature louse produce eggs called nits. These eggs are small ovals with a cream to yellowish color and can be found attached within 1/4 inch from the base of the hair shaft. Nits are most often found on the crown of the head, behind the ears or near the nape of the neck. The mother louse attaches nits to the hair with a super-strong glue, making them difficult to remove. Nits will not blow away with a hair dryer or comb out with conventional hair care utensils. The only way to remove nits is with a top quality lice & nit comb, a special device with up to ten times the amount of tines that a normal comb has.

Q: Can you catch head lice while swimming with an infested person?

Swimming carries no greater risk of transmission than any other activity. In fact, when lice are submerged in water, they latch on firmly to the hair and hold their breath, literally hanging on for dear life. This is why lice often survive shampooing, rain, seawater and swimming pools. Risk of transmission in and around swimming areas generally occurs with the sharing of towels, the piling of over-wear around the pool, sharing of lockers, and direct head to head contact associated with child’s play.

Q: Do I have to clean my house from top to bottom?

Absolutely not! Lice cannot live off the head for more than 24 hours. If you’re sleeping on the same sheets and blankets, you may want to wash them and dry them in a hot clothes dryer for 30-40 minutes; but that’s the only extent you’ll have to go to. One suggestion I always give to parents is .... Tell your children to stay away from selfies with other kids. The head to head contact is how lice get transferred in the first place.

Q: Can lice jump or fly?

Lice are crawling insects. They do not have wings, so they cannot fly, jump or swim. They are a six-legged creature with small hooks at the end of the legs which allow them to latch onto the hair follicles and hold on for dear life. Lice can only transfer from person to person with direct contact, through the sharing of hair care utensils, or through direct contact with clothing, bedding or furniture.

Q: Does using gel in the hair help to prevent head lice?

Unfortunately, gel, hairspray and other haircare products are not likely to prevent the transfer of lice. A daily spritz of mint spray has been shown to be an effective deterrent, though not a guaranteed solution.

Q: Can my pet get head lice?

No pets cannot have head lice. Pediculus Humanus, the correct medical term for head lice, are a human problem. These bugs have specifically evolved to latch onto human hair and feed on our blood. You do not need to treat your household pets when dealing with a head lice infestation.

Q: Where do head lice come from?

We do not know how or where head lice first popped up, but evidence suggests that we have been dealing with this problem since the dawn of humanity. The world’s oldest physical proof of lice is a nit found at a Brazilian archeological site dating back thousands of years. Egyptian mummies have been found with petrified head lice and eggs, and nit combs have been found in Egyptian tombs.

Q: What is the life cycle of head lice?

Head lice live for approximately 30 days when attached to a human host. Generally, lice can not survive if they are separated from their human food source for more than 24 hours. A female louse lays 3-5 eggs (nits) per day. These eggs hatch in 7-10 days, and it takes another 7-10 days for the immature nymphs to develop into a fully grown louse, at which point they can mate and begin to lay their own eggs.

Q: Can African Americans get head lice?

The incidence of head lice infestations in African Americans is significantly lower than that of Caucasians, Hispanics and Asian Americans. Studies by Pediatric Dermatologists suggest that African American school aged children account for less than one-half percent of all reported cases. Though African American children may be less susceptible to infestations, they can, and do get head lice. Head lice in the United States are of a different species than head lice found in Africa, where the lice have evolved to specifically target the thicker hair follicles genetically inherited by African and African American populations.

Why lice shampoos don’t work!

Rid, Nix and other over the counter lice shampoos kill off approximately 18% of adult lice. These shampoos work by attacking the bug’s central nervous system. Because baby lice or “nymphs” have not yet developed a central nervous system, they can not be killed. In addition, lice shampoos do not kill lice eggs or “nits”. So while you may kill off some of the adult bugs, their eggs will remain, only to hatch a few days later starting the cycle all over again. This is why lice is so hard to eliminate!

Note: Lice shampoos also contain toxic chemicals which can enter your child’s system through the skin on the scalp. Many adult lice have become resistant to these chemicals. So in many cases, the shampoos are completely useless. Toxic over the counter lice treatments have also been linked to Leukemia, seizures, learning disabilities and neurological damages.

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