Hair lice eggs (nits) are tiny white shells that appear on your scalp after you have combed your hair. They’re usually found in small clusters, and they hatch in about 10 days.
You can find lice in a number of different places on your scalp, including:
- On the scalp
- In the hair
- Around your ears
- Under your fingernails
What causes lice?
Lice are found in places where people spend a lot of time, such as their beds, schools, and offices. They can also be transmitted from person to person.
Lice can live for up to 6 weeks without a host, but most lice die within 3 to 5 days. Lice that live longer than 5 days can transmit the parasite to other people.
Where do lice live?
Lice live mainly in the hair.
Lice can live for up to 2 weeks on the hair shaft, but most die within 3 to 5 days. Lice that live longer than 5 days can transmit the parasite to other people.
Lice can hide in:
- The ends of your hair
- Your hair cuticles, which are small layers of skin that cover the ends of your hair
- Your scalp, which is the top of your hair and the roots
- Hair accessories, such as hats and combs
- Your mattress and bedding
Lice eggs are made in the gut of the female louse and are passed to the scalp through the hair. Eggs can survive for up to 10 days on the hair shaft.
How do lice get on my hair?
A louse egg lands on the hair shaft and starts to hatch. If it lands on a hair follicle, it starts the cycle again. It can take a louse about 10 days to hatch. Lice can be found in clusters of 5 to 50, and they hatch in about 10 days.
What are the symptoms of lice?
The symptoms of lice can include:
- Itchy red bumps
- White or yellow bumps
- Red or brown spots on the scalp
- Scaly skin
How are lice spread?
Lice can get on your hair and scalp through:
- Direct contact with a person who has these insects on their head
- Touching something that someone with lice has touched
- Touching an object with lice on it
- Touching an object that someone else has touched
Lice can be spread through:
- Direct contact
How do I treat lice?
If you have lice, you can treat them with over-the-counter (OTC) products.
OTC products include the following:
- Lice shampoos
- Lice treatments
- Lice creams and lotions
- Lice waxes
- Lice sprays
The first step to treating lice is to wash your hair.
Wash your hair with shampoo that contains:
- 2 percent permethrin (Permethrin 2%)
- 0.5 percent malathion (Mala-L)
To kill lice, you need to comb your hair and scalp.
Use a lice comb to comb through the hair and scalp. You can also use a lice comb with a fine tip or special lice comb.
Lice comb with a fine tip: To use a lice comb with a fine tip, hold the hair slightly behind the ears or back of the neck and comb from the top of the scalp to the bottom of the hair.
Lice comb with a special lice comb: You can use a lice comb with a special lice comb to remove and kill lice. To use a lice comb with a special lice comb, follow these steps:
- Wash your hair.
- Hold a few strands of hair in one hand and your lice comb in the other hand.
- Slowly move your comb through your hair, from the scalp to the roots.
- Press down on the lice comb so it removes lice.
When should I see a doctor?
See a doctor if you have a severe case of lice. They can test your hair for lice and treat you with OTC products.
If you have lice and a child, it’s important that they see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if the lice has spread to your child’s head and you’re unsure whether or not you have lice.
You should also see a doctor if you’ve had lice for more than 3 months.
How do I prevent lice?
You can prevent lice by:
- Washing your hair regularly, at least twice a week.
- Washing your hair with an effective lice shampoo.
- Washing your hair with warm water.
- Washing the scalp and your hair after you go to bed.
- Using lice treatments.
You can prevent lice by washing your hair regularly.
What is the outlook for lice?
The outlook for lice depends on how many lice you have and how well you treat them.
If you only have a few lice, you can treat them with OTC products.
If you have a serious case of lice and you have more than 100 lice, you should see a doctor. They can test your hair for lice and treat you with OTC products.
If you have a severe case of lice, you may need a prescription lice treatment.
What is the best treatment for lice?
The best treatment for lice is to use OTC products.
For adults, it’s best to use a lice shampoo. You can use a lice comb to remove and kill lice. If you don’t have a lice comb, you can use an old toothbrush to scrape the hair.
For children under the age of 3, you can use a lice treatment.
It’s important to follow the instructions on the label of any lice shampoo or treatment.
If the shampoo or treatment doesn’t work, it may be that the lice are resistant to the product you used. You can try a different product or try a different brand.
If you’re unsure what product you should use, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the hair. They can live for up to 6 weeks without a host.
It can be hard to get rid of lice, especially if you have them on your children’s heads. You can treat lice with OTC products, but you need to see a doctor if they’re causing problems.
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