About Lice & FAQs
Nits: The eggs
Lice Facts & Myths
Lice do not jump or fly from person to person. You won’t get them from standing near someone who has lice. They just crawl. They do not even have wings. Lice typically range from about 2mm-4mm in size. They have 6 legs with tiny little claws at the end so they can cling to the hair shaft. They are also masters at hiding. Lice cannot survive for more than about 24 hours or so without feeding and they only feed on human blood (like teeny little vampires). They don’t live on your pets because they can only live on human blood. Head lice also do not burrow into the scalp. Head lice can affect anyone no matter how clean you are. In fact they prefer clean hair because it is easier to cling to. They are almost always transmitted from person to person via head to head contact with an infested individual. You can also get them by sharing a hair brush, hair accessory, hat, hooded sweatshirt or towel with someone who has lice. Children are more prone to getting head lice since they will spend more time in small places where heads are likely to touch each other. Adult head lice can live for roughly 30 days on their host. During one louse’s life time she may lay as many as 100 nits. This means that even if you get rid of all of the adult lice there may still be viable nits that hatch about a week after the are laid and take their place repeating the cycle if they are not removed.
One of the biggest challenges in eradicating a lice infestation is the fact that nits are essentially waterproof and resistant to most types of chemical attacks. Most over the counter treatments, as well as pediatrician prescribed pesticides simply attack the live lice and do little to kill the eggs. In addition, it has been found that some lice have grown immune to certain chemicals used to kill them thereby requiring a pediatrician to prescribe even more potent, more toxic poisons to try and kill them. Many people refuse to put malathion or lindane on their vegetable garden much less their children’s head.
What about my house?
As mentioned above, lice cannot survive for long periods of time if they fall off a person and cannot feed. Therefore you don’t really need to spend a lot of time or money on house cleaning activities. However, if it would make you feel better it certainly doesn’t hurt to vacuum your rugs, upholstered furniture, pillows and mattresses to pick up any loose hairs that might have nits attached to them. The odds of getting re-infested this way are low so you don’t need to go overboard. You should however do the following:
- Machine wash clothing, towels and bed linens. You’ll want to use a hot water cycle and dry the laundry on high heat for at least 20 minutes.
- Soak family combs and brushes in hot water (130ºF+) for at least 15 minutes. Some people prefer just to buy new ones. That’s okay too.
- It’s not a bad idea to put your child’s back pack in the dryer for 20 minutes as well (assuming that it won’t ruin the backpack).
- For items that cannot be laundered (ie. stuffed animals and certain hats or articles of clothing) you can put them in tightly closed plastic bags for two weeks. This will ensure that the lice and any nits on stray hairs will eventually starve.
We also highly recommend the following:
- Have everyone in the household also checked for lice
- Notify friends and people who have come in contact with the individual who has lice