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Head Lice Fact Sheet

FACT ONE. Head lice are common year round and right round the world. They are not dangerous, do not carry diseases and are not a sign of poor hygiene. In fact, head lice don’t much care whether the hair is clean or dirty.

The head lice family consists of nits and lice: the nit (head lice egg), the nymph (adolescent louse) and the adult louse. There are female and male lice and head lice do reproduce sexually.

FACT THREE. Head lice cannot fly or jump but they do crawl at exceptional speeds. The lifespan of an individual louse is just thirty five days. However, within this time the louse can reproduce and create a large family of lice that continue the head lice life cycle.

FACT FOUR. The female louse can lay between 50 and 150 eggs in her lifetime, we refer to these as nits. The nits are an oval shape and are between 0.5 millimeters and 1 millimeters in length. When laid they are a yellow / white colour but can turn to a tan or coffee like colour as the embryo grows, once hatched the shell appears white.

FACT FIVE. A nymph, an adolescent louse, is between 1 and 2 millimeters in length and grows to around 2 to 3 millimeters as it develops into an adult louse.

FACT SIX. Head lice can only survive on human blood, the lice feed from the scalp 3 to 4 times a day. The lice bite into the scalp and extract the blood directly from the bite. The bite is what can cause irritation to the infested person but not everyone will have “the itch” as irritation levels differ between individuals.

FACT SEVEN. Lice cannot survive away from the scalp. Head lice removed from the scalp will immediately begin to dehydrate, however can live for up to 3 days away from the scalp.

FACT EIGHT. It’s not just fancy marketing when it is recommended to repeat the treatment process. As combing requires time and the nits are very small it is very possible some may be missed during the initial treatment. These nits will hatch in 7-10 days and be vulnerable to a treatment – stopping the life cycle.

FACT NINE. Re-infestation can occur in the case that the initial treatment has not removed or eradicated all the head lice eggs (nits) or a new infestation of head lice has been picked up from another host. Be vigilant and check for head lice regularly as early detection makes light work of any treatment and reduces the chance of multiple cases in the school yard.

FACT TEN. There are no treatments on the Australian market today that kill the lice and eggs, without the need for combing.