What are head lice and what do they look like?
- Head lice are tiny, blood-sucking insects. They can't fly or hop as they have no wings or strong legs but they can crawl fast!
- Baby lice are only about the size of a full-stop, are almost see-through and they're very tricky to spot. Adult head lice are 2-4 mm long red-brown to grayish white and camouflage to blend in.
- Nits (louse eggs) are only about the size of a sesame seed and are glued at an angle to a strand of hair.
- To remove a nit you'll have to slide it all the way down a strand of hair with your fingernails.
- Nits take 7-10 days to hatch, are yellowy coffee coloured ovals and are usually near the crown of the head, around the ears or the nape of the neck.
What is the life cycle of head lice?
- Lice can live for a month laying up to 10 eggs a day
- Eggs takes 7-10 days to hatch
- A nymph takes 7-10 days to become an adult louse.
- Day 1 Egg laid on hair
- Day 6 Baby louse hatches
- Day 8 Growing baby moults
- Day 11 Louse moults again
- Day 16 Louse moults again
- Day 17 Adult lice mate
- Day 18 First egg laid
- Day 19-32 eight eggs laid daily
Who gets head lice?
- Anyone. Lice are not fussy about your age, sex or hygiene. Lice are transmitted mostly through head to head contact so are more common in young, school-aged children. Its easy to get head lice but hard to get rid of them so if your child has nits, you'll need to have your entire family checked.
How do I know if my child has nits?
Common symptoms include:
- Itchy scalp
- A tickling of something moving on their scalp or through their hair
- Red marks caused by excessive scratching or a red rash on the back of the neck.
Is it “nits” or lice” or “Louse”?
In common use these terms are often interchangeable. Strictly speaking though:
- Lice is the plural of louse, the insect stage of the life cycle
- Nits are unhatched head lice eggs.
Where should I look for Lice?
- Start near the scalp, around the ears and near the nape of the neck, then check the rest of the scalp. Not sure its a nit? Blow on it and if it stays attached to the hair it could be a nit. If you find eggs you probably have lice bugs too because they don’t lay themselves.
Can I wash out head lice?
- No, lice can hold their breath for up to 2 hours. They lock their claws onto the hair and hang on and the eggs are glued to the hair. Lice can shut down their nervous system too, and can remain submerged, safe and sound, even in stuff designed to kill them. In lab tests, lice played dead for two long hours!
Does having head lice mean I am dirty?
- Getting head lice does not mean you are unclean, they actually prefer clean hair. Dirty hair won’t prevent them from laying eggs in your hair though so don’t try that.
Will a haircut help?
- Cutting your hair won’t get rid of lice or stop you from catching them. However it does help to have shorter hair when you’re removing them yourself - long or thick hair can be hard work.
- Remember long hair does dangle more so you may want it tied back especially when at school.
My head doesn't itch, can I still have lice?
- Yes, itching is caused by an allergic reaction to lice saliva. Only half of those affected develop itching.
- When the bugs are removed the irritation may take a little time to go away.
Are head lice dangerous?
- No, they are just very annoying!
- Reactions to lice are frequently mild compared with chemicals present in most lice treatments.
How do I know I have got rid of them?
- If you are nit free for 14 days straight, you’ve managed to eradicate your head lice.
Can I prevent my child getting lice?
- Nitsy Pixies Daily Prevention Spray comes in two options - under five years and over five years.
- These sprays contain all natural ingredients and are very effective at keeping nits at bay. Ideal for when these is a breakout at school. Visit our Products page to purchase.
- There are some behaviours you can discourage too. For example, swapping hats with other kids, sharing combs, brushes, or other hair accessories, using someone else’s sleeping bag and pillow when sleeping away from home.
- Sharing is great - except when you're sharing lice!
Are nits more common in summer?
- Children get head lice any time of the year if they come in contact with another person with lice.
- Since children come in contact with each other more often when they are in school, that’s when they are more likely to catch them.
Should I report to school that my kid has nits?
- It may be beneficial for the sake of others to share information with school nurses, teachers, parents of classmates, and others about contact with head lice.
Where can I find more information?
- Head to our contact page if you have any questions we haven't answered here.