How to Recognize Head Lice

What are head lice?

When a lice infestation is suspected, it is important to understand how to recognize lice. Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the human scalp. They are about as big as sesame seeds. Head lice sustain themselves by sucking blood—just as mosquitoes do. However, unlike mosquitoes, lice cannot fly or jump from one person to another; they can only crawl. Children often get head lice from head-to-head contact with other children, but may also get them by sharing personal items such as hats, combs, or headbands.

lice egg/nit and lice - Rid lice treatment

What are lice eggs and nits?

Lice eggs are laid by the female louse. They are about the size of a poppy seed and are difficult to see because their color blends in easily with hair. Lice eggs are laid near the root of the hair and are attached to the hair shaft with a waterproof, glue-like substance that can't be washed or blown away.

Nits are the empty eggshells left behind when lice hatch from eggs. Dandruff, sand and flakes of hairspray are commonly mistaken for lice eggs or nits. Eggs and nits are not easily removed and must be carefully combed out with a fine-toothed comb.

Nits vary in color, from yellowish-brown to white. Since the hair grows, nits are usually found further away from the root of the hair. Many schools have a “No Nit Policy,” which means children who have had head lice are not readmitted to school until all the nits are gone. If your child has head lice, it is very important to comb out eggs and nits as part of the lice treatment process.

How long do head lice live?

Head lice live for approximately 40–50 days and go through 3 stages in their life cycle:

Egg Stage: The female louse lays the egg with a special glue that cements it to the hair shaft near the root. The lice egg develops and hatches approximately 10 days later.

Nymph Stage: Once the louse hatches, it is called a nymph and is barely visible to the naked eye. The nymph cannot reproduce because it is not fully developed. After about 12 days, it becomes an adult.

Adult Stage: The adult louse can lay up to 4–10 eggs a day—starting another generation of lice. The adult stage lasts about 28 days.

Nit and lice lifecycle— RID.com

Head lice symptoms

The most common head lice symptom is itching. If you notice your child scratching his or her head often, especially behind the ears or at the nape of the neck, check for lice. Usually lice can be found in these areas. Also, do frequent checks when you know of a lice outbreak in your child's school.

How to check for head lice

Find a comfortable area for you and your child. Have your child seated so you can easily maneuver around him/her while checking for lice.

Examine the head under bright, natural light. Head lice may be hard to detect because they move quickly and are very small.

Newly laid eggs are almost transparent. It is helpful to examine the head from different angles of light. This is easily done by moving around your child while examining.

Checking for lice eggs – Rid.com

Part the hair and closely examine the scalp, especially the nape of the neck and behind the ears.

Lice eggs can look like dandruff– Rid.com

Pubic and body lice

Pubic Lice (Crabs) Symptoms

  • The number one way to get crabs is from sexual contact. Therefore, sexual partners should be treated simultaneously to avoid re-infestation. The lice are very small and look like brown or grey dots on the skin. Crabs usually cause intense itching and lay small white eggs on the hair shaft, generally close to the skin surface. In hairy individuals, crabs may be present on the short hairs of the thighs and trunk, underarms, and occasionally on the beard or mustache.
  • It's possible to get crabs from infected bedding, towels, and clothes.
  • Crabs are equal opportunity pests found in the genital areas of men and women.
  • The most common symptom of crabs is extreme itching in the genital area.
  • Crabs are slightly larger than sesame seeds and resemble miniature crabs. They can be found by closely examining the genital area under a bright light.

Pubic Lice Treatment

  • Treatment to get rid of crabs is similar in manner to that used for head lice. It is important to treat the infected area thoroughly, which will include anal hairs and on the thigh area. Lice will spread to these surrounding areas, so complete treatment is necessary. It is also a good idea to treat affected sexual partners to reduce the chance of re-infestation.
  • Apply RID® Lice Killing Shampoo to DRY HAIR only, until area is thoroughly wet, being careful not to allow the product to come in direct contact or penetrate mucus membranes. Use caution to apply it to the skin and hair, but avoid the anus or vaginal openings since this may cause irritation or burning.
  • After completing application, allow product to remain for 10 minutes but no longer.
  • Add sufficient warm water to form lather. Rinse thoroughly.
  • A fine-toothed comb or a special lice/nit-removing comb like the RIDvantage® Lice Comb (included) can be used to help remove head lice, eggs, and nits from hair. You may need to use a mirror to ensure that all hair has been combed.
  • Clean infested area thoroughly. Be sure to wash underwear, clothes, bedding and towels in hot water and dry in high heat for 20 minutes to prevent the spread of crabs.

A second treatment must be done in 7–10 days to kill any newly hatched crabs.

Body Lice Symptoms and What to Look for

  • Body lice and their eggs are generally found in the seams of clothing, particularly in the waistline and armpit area. They move to the skin to feed, then return to the seams of the clothing where they lay their eggs.
  • Use RID® Home Lice, Bedbug & Dust Mite Spray to kill lice and their eggs on mattresses, furniture, car interiors, and other non-washable items. A regular disinfectant spray will not kill lice and their eggs.

What to do

  • To get rid of body lice, wash all clothes, towels, washable hats, scarves, coats, and bed linens in hot water. Dry in high heat for at least 20 minutes. Dry clean non-washables.

See how to get RID® of lice.