About the size of a sesame seed, the head louse is a parasite that feeds on human blood. Its biological name is pediculus humanus capitis and the infection caused by it is called pediculosis. A nuisance known around the world, this tiny insect infests human hair. As per the observation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there occur around 6 to 12 million lice infestations in the USA every year. These cases are reported among the children ranging between 3 to 11 years of age.
Fortunately, no serious disease is caused by lice infestation. So, it is never considered a medical or public health hazard. However, a severe itch, irritation, and mild curable skin infection due to scratching of scalp may be there. Though the school going kids are most commonly affected, people of any age group may get infested with these flightless pests. Remember, your poor hygiene has nothing to do with lice infestation. It is caused just because of the transfer of lice from a victimized person to your hair through head to head contact during some social activity.
Some facts about the life cycle of lice
Lice eggs or nits
Adult lice mate with one another and the female lays 8 to 10 eggs daily. These eggs are called nits. These are oval shaped, about 2 to 3 mm in size, yellow to white in color, and often confused with the flakes of dandruff. These remain glued with the hair shaft and never move. They like to be near the scalp. To treat them properly, moms must know how long it takes lice eggs to hatch so that they may remove them before hatching. It takes them about a week to hatch. They will have to pull these eggs forcefully from the roots of their child’s hair down to the tips with the help of a fine lice comb. It will be far better if they wet the hair first and then do the combing process.
Nymphs or immature lice
Nits hatch into nymphs that are exactly the same as adult lice, but are smaller in size. It takes from 7 to 9 days for a nymph to get mature after it has got hatched from a nit. It feeds on the human blood and will die soon if the blood supply is not there anymore.
Adult or mature lice
These are fully grown parasites with a lifespan of 30 days around. These are tan or dark brown in color. They depend upon the human blood supply for their survival. They can survive only for two days once they are cut-off from the blood supply. They always like to stay in warm areas. Hence, moms can find them near the scalp, behind the ears, around the back neck or shoulders. Adult lice run or crawl too fast to be picked up easily. So, it is advisory to wet the hair of the child to slow down the lice movement and make it easy for the mom to pick them with her thumb and index finger or comb them out altogether.