What is Head Lice?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 09, 2011

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What is Head Lice

Head lice are parasites which are found in the hair and scalp of humans. Head louse is also known as Pediculus humanus capitis and infestation with head lice is also known as pediculosis. Infestation with head lice is known to occur worldwide. The three forms of head lice found in human scalp and hair are nits, nymphs, and adults.

Nits are the eggs of head lice which are firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval in shape and yellow to white in colour and take about 7 days to hatch. They can be mistaken for dandruff or droplets of hairspray.

Nymphs: Nymphs are the immature form of adult head lice and hatch out of nits. Nymphs become mature in about 7 days after hatching and need human blood (as food) to live.

The size of an adult louse is almost that of a sesame seed. It has six legs, is tan to greyish- white in colour but tends to look darker in people with dark hair. The life of adult lice on the human scalp is about 30 days and it needs to feed on blood to survive. A louse that falls off a person dies within 2 days.

Head lice spread from one person to another by direct contact. It can infest anyone, in-spite of good personal hygiene. Infestation with head lice is treatable with lice-killing shampoos and crème rinses. If you want to prevent infection with head lice then:

  • Avoid direct contact with people with head lice (that is with their head, hair, clothing, and personal belongings).
  • Treat people infected with head lice.
  • Treat contacts of people with head lice.


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  • Shirley16 May 2012

    If someone has head lice and treats it - is it still contagious to other people. How long do they have to stay away from other people, children, school, etc.