Important facts in understanding Head Lice

  • Head lice cannot fly, hop or jump. Direct hair to hair contact is the only means of transmission.
  • Head lice only live on the human head – they do not live on other parts of the body or on animals.
  • They cling to hair close to the head, especially behind the ears and on the nape of the neck.
  • Mature lice are about 3mm long and are generally beige, brown or black.
  • Fertilised females can lay between 5 to 10 eggs a day.
  • After about seven days the egg hatches, leaving an empty egg case or “nit” stuck to the hair.
  • The oval yellowish-white eggs are glued individually to hair shafts at the scalp, as they need the heat of the scalp to incubate. Eggs attached to hair further away have already hatched or (if dark in colour) contain dead embryos.
  • Young lice (nymphs) are white and smaller than adults.
  • Over the next six to ten days, nymphs moult three times and grow into mature lice.
  • Head lice feed four to five times a day, piercing the skin and sucking blood from the host’s scalp.
  • They cannot survive away from the host for more than 12 hours.
  • Change bed linen and wash and line dry, preferably in the sun.
  • All family members with head lice should be treated on the same day to avoid re-infestation.
  • To avoid spread of infestation do not share brushes, hats, towels or pillows.
  • Head lice do not live on pets so treatment of pets is not required.
  • Shaving the head is not an effective treatment as the lice

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