Head lice are minute parasitic insects that live on the human scalp. Lice feed by biting the scalp of their host and feeding on the unfortunate person’s blood. Nits are the common name for the eggs of the head louse, and it’s nits that we’re going to discuss in detail in this article.
If you want to get rid of head lice, it’s vital that you remove all the nits too. But before you can start to tackle the problem, you need to know how to recognize nits.
What do lice eggs look like?
A female louse can lay as many as a dozen eggs (nits) every day! With a magnifying glass, you’ll see nits as tiny white or yellowish dots attached to the hair follicles. Measuring just 0.8mm long and 0.3mm wide, to the naked eye, nits look like dandruff or even droplets of hairspray.
When freshly laid, nits are colored caramel to gray, turning yellowish white when the nymphs have hatched, and the eggshells are left attached to the hair. And did you know that the nit shell can remain stuck to the hair for several months?!
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Where do you look for nits?
Use a fine-toothed nit comb to hunt for lice eggs. Part the hair and look for the nits close to the scalp, usually within .06 of a centimeter. Other areas to search for nits are behind the ears and on the neck close to the hairline. That’s because the temperature and humidity here are perfect for the developing nymph (baby louse) inside the nit.
What’s the lifecycle of the head louse?
When the female louse lays her eggs, she attaches them to the hair shafts with a waterproof, gluey substance. That ensures that the nits won’t be washed out or brushed away. Nits hatch around eight or nine days after they’re laid.
Once the nits have hatched, and the nymphs have left the eggs to begin feeding, the nit shells remain firmly attached to the hair shaft. As the hair grows, the nit shells move farther away from the scalp. Therefore, what you might at first take to be nits are more likely to be empty nit shells.
The nymphs are only a little bigger than the nits and are light in color. Around 12 days after hatching, the nymphs become adults. The adult lice mate, the females lay eggs, and the cycle continues.
Adult lice can live for up to a month on the human head. With that in mind, you can see just how quickly a severe lice infestation can take hold.
Can you kill nits?
Yes, you can.
The best way to kill nits is by using a special anti-lice shampoo that tackles both the adult lice, the nymphs, and the nits. You might want to check out our informative Buyer’s Guide to the best lice shampoo at this link.
Who is most likely to get nits?
It’s not true that lice only affect people who have poor personal hygiene. Lice are just as happy to live in squeaky clean hair as they are in greasy, dirty tresses. However, scientific research has shown that African Americans have fewer reported head lice infestations, possibly because lice claws find it harder to grip the width and shape of African American hair.
Lice are most commonly seen in pre-school and elementary school-age kids, their families, and caregivers. It’s also thought that girls are more likely to get head lice than boys. That’s most likely because girls have more head-to-head contact with each other, and they also tend to have longer hair, providing warmth and darkness – a perfect environment for lice.
So, the kids come home from school, snuggle up with mom and dad to watch TV, and a week later the whole family is itching!
Wrapping it up:
So, what do lice eggs look like?
In a nutshell, lice eggs, or nits as they’re commonly known, look like tiny white specs of dandruff in the hair. As a general rule, any nits seen clinging to the hair more than one centimeter from the scalp are most likely empty shells. Live nits will always be found close to the scalp where it’s warm, dark, and humid.