Head lice are small wingless insects that are light brown or grey in color and present on the scalp. They feed on the blood of the scalp and derive nutrition. Children are more commonly affected by an infestation with head lice than adults. Head lice can affect anyone, and having head lice is not a sign of poor hygiene. Head lice don't carry or spread bacterial or viral infections. It is usually not possible to get rid of head lice overnight, but there are several treatment options involving over-the-counter medicines, prescription medication, and lifestyle and home remedies that can help get rid of lice faster.
How do you get head lice?
Female lice produce a sticky substance that attaches the eggs to the base of the hair shaft, up to 5 mm from the scalp.
The life cycle of lice:
- Eggs: They typically hatch after six to nine days.
- Nymphs: These are immature forms of the lice. They develop into mature adults after 9-12 days.
- Adult lice: They usually live for three to four weeks, and the adult female lice lay around 6-10 eggs a day.
Transmission of head lice:
Head lice can’t jump or fly; they can only crawl. Lice usually directly transfer from the hair of one person to another. Therefore, head lice infestation may not always be a sign of poor personal hygiene or an unclean environment. Pets, such as dogs and cats, usually don't play a role in spreading head lice. Some possible ways of transmission include:
- Direct and close contact with another person that has head lice
- Sharing hats and scarves
- Brushes and combs
- Hair accessories
- Sharing pillows, towels, and clothing