Head lice, also known as head louse, are parasitic insects that live in human hair and scalps, and survive off of human blood. Head lice infestations, scientifically known as pediculosis, occur around the world and can infest anybody regardless of their hygiene. The symptoms of head lice are easy to identify: itchy scalp and irritability in the affected area. If you look closely, you might see tiny white balls--the eggs--wrapped around the hair shafts, or an actual adult louse.
Head lice develop through three stages--nits, nymphs, and adults. In general, it takes about two weeks for the nits, or eggs, to hatch and mature into adults. An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, with six legs and a tan to grayish-white color. Once a louse is fully mature, it can live up to 30 days on a person's head, feeding off their blood. Without a host, an adult louse will die within two days.
How Are Lice Spread?
Lice do not jump or fly, and they can not be spread from pets or other animals. However, lice spread easily through direct contact from person to person, so infestations can occur quickly. Anyone can get head lice, but pre-school and elementary-aged children and their families are infested the most often. Your child can contract head lice by:
Lice are diagnosed by looking closely through the hair for nits, nymphs, or adult louse. Your child's school nurse is likely well-trained in diagnosing a head lice infestation, and routine screenings are required in most schools.