Head lice: some facts, signs and symptoms

Some facts about head lice

Head lice are actually parasites found on human heads. Louse is the singular of lice. Its biological name is pediculus humanus capitis. The infection caused by head lice is called pediculosis.

When a person happens to be in direct contact with the hair of another infested person by head to head contact, he may catch lice. Besides, sharing combs, hair brushes, caps, scarves, towels, hair bands, jewelry items, etc. also promotes the spread of lice.

More often, head lice is a common problem with the children of pre-school and elementary school. However, adults of all age groups and mature children may also get infested with these bugs. A rough estimation says that there are 6 to 12 million cases of lice infestation annually in the USA.

There are three forms of lice depending upon the developmental stage they are in. Nits are lice eggs and are very hard to see. They are often confused with dandruff or hair spray droplets. They are yellow to white in color and from 2 to 3 mm in length. Firmly glued to the hair shafts, they have oval shape and usually hatch in a week.

Nits hatch into nymphs that look like adult lice but are smaller in size. It takes about seven days for a nymph to get mature after hatching. If not fed on human blood, the nymph will die.

Adult lice are usually of the size of sesame seeds. They have six legs and are tan to grayish white in color. A female louse looks a bit larger than its male counterpart and lays eggs or nits. If fed on human blood, adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head. If fallen off the head, an adult louse can survive only for two days.

Adult lice mate to produce nits that develop into nymphs and then into mature lice to produce yet more nits.

Signs and symptoms of head lice infestation

Many a time, people with lice do not realize they are infested. They keep on doing their chores without any hindrance. However, the following are certain telltale signs and lice symptoms that must be taken seriously on the part of parents if they find any of them in their child. 

  • A strong itch on the scalp caused in response to the bites of lice and the allergy due to saliva secreted by the lice.
  • A tickling sensation as if something is moving or crawling through the hair or behind the ears or round the neck.
  • Sores or small red bumps all around the scalp, neck or shoulders due to scratching.
  • An occasional infection produced in the sores if they are not treated properly and carefully.
  • The presence of nits on hair shafts. 
  • Irritability due to the difficulty in sleeping at nights. 

Having this much knowledge about lice and their infestation makes it much easier for the caring moms to look after their children against these parasites.

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