Head Lice Life Cycle


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Lice Myths & Facts

  • Myth: Lice jump, fly, hop from person to person, between people and animals, from the environment to the head
  • Fact: Human lice are only transmitted between people and never come from animals   
  • Fact: Head lice can only crawl (not fly) from human head to head
  • Fact: Adult lice can only live a maximum of 48 hours off of a human head; baby lice (nymphs) can survive only a couple hours
  • Fact: Transmission of head lice from inanimate objects (the environment) is very uncommon
  • Study: 0% lice found on 1000 hats from the 1000 children who had more than 5500 lice on their combined heads http://www.benthamscience.com/open/todj/articles/V004/SI0062TODJ/72TODJ.pdf
  • Study: only 4% live lice were found on infested subjects' pillowcases  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12890107/
  • Study: over 450 students had active infestations with over 14,000 lice combined, but the floors of their 108 classrooms did not have even one louse - they were completely uninfested  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12141614
  • Check the Experts: http://www.cdc.gov/lice/head/faqs.html
  • Myth: Lice is easy to get (casual contact) 
  • Fact: This actually depends on the level of infestation of the neighboring head. 
  • Fact: Lice have to have very specific spatial and kinetic conditions in order to crawl over to grasp a hair of a neighboring head 
  • Study: Only 7.1% of hair to hair transmission attempts worked (34 out of 480); the louse had to be oriented outward on the hair (not ready to feed at the base of scalp), the neighboring hair had to be parallel to the hair the louse was on,  the neighboring hair had to move very slowly (4 m per minute) http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v119/n3/full/5601602a.html
  • Check the Experts:  
  • http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6556831
  • Myth: Re-infestation from classmates is common
  • Fact: Re-infestions are often the same infestation which was never completely eradicated and has erupted again. 
  • Fact: The Head Lice Life Cycle illustrates that a couple of missed nits can take upwards of 22 days (more than 3 weeks!) to become adults before a new egg is even laid - and most likely another week before enough nits are visible to spot. That's one month, well outside the recommended two week time frame to check after an infestation.
  • Check the Experts: http://www.health.vic.gov.au/headlice/ 
  • Myth: If you have head lice you must have poor hygiene
  • Fact: Lice are opportunistic bugs, surviving only on human blood; they are not affected by cleanliness or dirtiness in their need to survive
  • Fact: Lice like clean and healthy scalps; experts believe dirty hair is slippery therefore harder to glue nits (eggs) to
  • Check the Experts:  
  • http://www.cdc.gov/lice/head/epi.html
  • http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdped.shtml
  • Myth: Visually looking through the hair is the best way to identify active head lice infestations
  • Fact: Using a professional grade nit comb to identify an infestation is more accurate in identifying active infestations than through a visual inspection
  • Fact: Lice scurry very quickly away from movement and light making them very difficult to spot in a visual inspection
  • Fact: Without using a nit comb to screen a large group of children, smaller infestations (a couple bugs that have recently crossed over) will be impossible to diagnose in a couple of minutes
  • Fact: Minnesota Lice Lady only uses a professional grade nit comb during screenings
  • Study:  "Direct visual examinations alone without combing underestimated active infestations"  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724133/
  • Study:  Expert parasitologists discovered that using a professional nit comb was 4 times more accurate and 2 times faster than direct visual examination for the detection of live head lice  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724133/
  • Myth: Head lice transmit diseases
  • Fact: Head lice are not carries of pathogens 
  • Fact: Body lice, a completely different strain of lice, do transmit pathogens
  • Check the Experts: http://www.cdc.gov/lice/

Lice Facts

  • Lice are 1mm to 4mm long
  • Female Louse lives for 30 days
  • 1 Female Adult Louse lays 5-10 eggs (nits) per day on hair
  • Nits take 7-10 days to hatch
  • Nymphs take another 10-12 days to become adults ready to lay eggs
  • Viable nits are brownish/yellow in color
  • Hatched nits are clear or opaque – never white
  • Nits are glued to the hair at an angle and look like a teardrop
  • Lice like clean and healthy scalps – dirty hair is slippery, thereby harder to glue nits to!
  • Head lice only live on the head and in extreme cases on eyebrows and eyelashes
  • Nit hot spots: behind the ears, crown of head, forehead hairline, nape of neck
  • http://www.holdfast.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/images/Headlice_Lifecycle.jpg 

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