What Is Head Lice?

Head lice is invasion of the hair and scalp by a small, wingless insect called Pediculus humanus capitis. The most common form of transmission is head-to-head contact in addition to contact with infested brushes, hats, towels, pillows, carpet, stuffed animals, and sports uniforms.

The three forms of lice are the nit, the nymph, and the adult louse. Nits are lice eggs and are hard to see. Later the nit hatches into a nymph. In order to survive the nymph feeds on blood. The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed and grayish white in color. It can live up to 30 days on a person’s head.

Head lice can commonly be found on the scalp behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the neck. Some signs and symptoms experienced by head lice infestation include a feeling that something is moving in the hair, itching, sores caused by scratching the scalp, and irritability.

You can detect head lice by looking through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs, or adults. If nits are identified close to the scalp this confirms that the individual is infested. However, locating the nymph or adult can be hard because they move quickly. A diagnosis of head lice can be made by a health care professional, school nurse, or a professional from the local health department.

In order for elimination of head lice to be effective the infested person along with family members that have become infested and the home must all be treated. Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications are to be used to treat all affected people. When treating the house make sure to wash all clothing and bed linens in hot water, soak combs and brushes in rubbing alcohol for one hour or wash with soap and hot water and place in the freezer for two days, and do not forget to vacuum the floors.