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Head Lice - The enemy

Everything you need to know

Do NOT underestimate the perseverance and power of head lice…. they are continuously evolving, building up resistance and increasingly products are becoming less effective. Once any treatment is applied it is vital not only to follow through but also to ensure a methodical, manual removal of all head lice and nits.

Head lice have been around forever, (their shells have been found on ancient mummies!) and have evolved into clever, persistent and crafty creatures! Head lice like hair, any hair: clean, dirty, long or short…. they know no socio-economic barriers!!

Head lice do NOT make for HAPPY HEADS, time to change…..

For such tiny creatures they are a mighty enemy; outwitting parents and chemical warfare, evolving and gathering power as they go… Did you know that...

  • They have no wings so they do NOT fly.
  • They do NOT jump or hop from head to head.
  • Adult lice will NOT survive off of the human source for more than 24 to 48 hours.
  • They are whitish in colour before feeding and then turn a redish/brown colour.
  • Their claws are especially adapted to allow them to grip hair, especially when the hair is wet.
  • They live next to the scalp to keep warm.
  • They are very fast movers.
  • Their eggs are laid at night by adult lice.
  • Their eggs take 7-10 days to hatch.
  • Their life cycle is approximately 30-40 days.
  • They are only found on humans and not on animals.

The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and tend to live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.
Head lice are found worldwide. Head lice infestations are most common among preschool children attending child care, elementary and secondary schoolchildren as well as the household members of infested children.

Head lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. Spread by contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Head lice have three forms: the egg (also called a nit), the nymph, and the adult.

Egg/Nit: Nits are lice eggs laid by the adult female head louse, most commonly found at the base of the hair shaft nearest the scalp. Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft and are oval-shaped and very small (about the size of a knot in thread) and hard to see. Nits often appear yellow or white although live nits sometimes appear to be the same color as the hair of the infested person. Nits are often confused with dandruff, scabs, or hair spray droplets. Head lice nits usually take about 7-9 days to hatch. Eggs that are likely to hatch are usually located no more than quarter inch from the base of the hair shaft. Nits located further than quarter inch from the base of hair shaft may very well be already hatched, non-viable nits, or empty nits or casings. This is difficult to distinguish with the naked eye.

Nymph: A nymph is an immature louse that hatches from the nit. A nymph looks like an adult head louse, but is smaller. To live, a nymph must feed on blood. Nymphs mature into adults about 9-12 days after hatching from the nit.

Adult: The fully grown and developed adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish-white in color. Adult head lice may look darker in persons with dark hair than in persons with light hair. To survive, adult head lice must feed on blood. An adult head louse can live about 30 days on a person’s head but will die within one or two days if it falls off a person.
Head lice and head lice nits are found almost exclusively on the scalp, particularly around and behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Head lice hold tightly to hair with hook-like claws at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice nits are cemented firmly to the hair shaft and can be difficult to remove even after the nymphs hatch and empty casings remain.
Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse.
Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the person’s skin.
Head-to-head contact with an already infested person is the most common way to get head lice. Head-to-head contact is common during play at school, at home, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).

Although very uncommon, head lice can occassionally be spread by sharing clothing or belongings. Examples include: sharing clothing (hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms) or articles (hair ribbons, barrettes, combs, brushes, towels, stuffed animals) recently worn or used by an infested person; or lying on a bed, couch, pillow, or carpet that has recently been in contact with an infested person. Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the spread of head lice.
There are many remedies available however at Happy Heads we believe the only truly effective answer is The Shepherd Method of Strand by Strand Nit Removal to get rid of all head lice and nits. Although uncommon head lice can be spread through sharing clothing or lying on a bed, couch or carpet recently been in contact with an infested person, to reduce the chance of spreading head lice in this way it is recommended that all bedding should be washed and other areas thoroughly hoovered. In addition any personal items that cannot be washed can be stored in an airtight bag for a minimum of 24-48 hours.