Interesting Nit Bits

Head Lice, what are they?

Head lice are tiny, wingless insects with six legs and claws used to latch onto the hair. They cannot jump or fly and are spread predominantly via head to head contact or sharing hats, hairbrushes and combs. They live on your head, feeding off blood under the scalp. The louse eggs are called nits and are laid at the base of the hair shaft very close to the scalp. Nits are very hard to see, a translucent whitish colour that can sometimes appear to be the same colour as the hair. In a well lit area they have a shiny appearance making them easier to detect. Nits hatch within 6-10 days after being laid, however some remain unhatched for up to 3-4 weeks.

The Life of a Louse.

Head lice are a parasite that’s survival depends solely on humans. Laying their eggs on the hair shaft around 1.5cm from the scalp. Each louse survives for about five weeks, during that time a female can lay up to 130 eggs. Lasting between 33 and 35 days the life cycle of head lice begins when the eggs are laid, hatching, maturation into adults, mating and egg laying after which the parent head lice die. These eggs will hatch in six to ten days continuing the life cycle until the infestation is treated and the cycle is broken. The typical louse dehydrates and dies anywhere between 6 and 24 hours when away from the scalp.

How to break the cycle

A lot of the frustration we hear from parents comes after they have spent valuable time and money completing treatments, sending their child off to school only to be reinfested within a week or two and have to treat all over again with cycle never ending. Three factors attributable to this perpetual problem are the resistance of the louse to commonly used treatments, incorrect use of treatments and changes to school practices with the introduction of the “No Exclusion Policy”.

To effectively treat you must “repeat treat”.

Three factors have been identified that directly attribute to the dramatic increase in Head Lice infestations over the last 2 years. They are, resistance of head lice to the commonly used treatments, the incorrect use of treatments and the changes to school practices with the introduction of the “No Exclusion Policy”.

Treatment of head lice is difficult as the cycle is perpetual, where new eggs are laid while mature eggs are hatching.