What do Head Lice Look Like?

What do Head Lice Look Like?

What do head lice look like? It’s a question almost every parent will ask themselves at some point during their child’s life. It’s important to educate both yourself and your family about the basic facts of head lice.

So, what do head lice look like? An adult head louse will be roughly the size of a sesame seed (approximately 1/8″ inch). The body is flattened and wingless, so head lice are unable to fly from host to host. They do not jump like fleas either. Instead, they rely on direct or indirect contact in order to move from one person to another. Each leg of a louse will have a claw on the end, allowing them to grab the hair and to scuttle across the scalp. Their mouths are entirely hidden within their head; and they withdraw blood painlessly from skin capillaries. Searching fingers will cause a louse to disperse quickly, and they are quite quick and adept at travelling both forwards and backwards.

The bodies are dark; anything from a grey to a brown/tan color. Two feelers protrude from the head, and 6 legs protrude from the middle section of the body. The back end of a louse body will be considerably wider and longer than the rest of the body, making lice look almost a little disproportionate.

egg lice

As well as asking yourself ‘what do head lice look like’, you also need to know what nits look like. Nits are the eggs that lice lay and cement to hair strands, usually close to the scalp. ‘Live’ nits will be opaque or dark in color, and will be very resistant to removal, even when using the nit comb. Hatched lice eggs will be white, and easier to pull off the hair strand. Soaking hair in white vinegar can help to soften the cement the lice apply to their eggs, allowing you to remove live nits with a little more ease.

It’s important that you are able to identify both lice and nits; as this will make it easier to treat the problem. More often than not, people find effective ways to kill the lice, but fail to recognize the potential problem that will arise when the latest generations of nits hatch. Because of this, the nits go untreated, and a few days later the problem can be back to square one before you even know it.

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As well as looking for the lice themselves, you may sometimes notice the bite marks they leave behind on the scalp. These are often itchy, red sore spots on the scalp. Again, by identifying the signs of head lice, as well as the louse itself, you will be able to act immediately. It is far easier to nip the problem in the bud than deal with a full blown head lice infestation; and in infestation can take a matter of weeks or days, and not months, to occur.

Next time you overhear a parent ask ‘What do head lice look like?’ be sure to jump in and inform them about your own experiences with this particular parasite.

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