What Are Lice?
Lice are tiny, wingless, six-legged, parasitic blood-sucking insects that rely exclusively on human blood to survive. As a heads up, ‘lice’ is the plural form of ‘louse.’ There are three different types of lice: body lice, pubic lice, and head lice.
Head lice are the most common type of lice that infest humans. Head lice are approximately 2mm to 4mm in length and range in color from tan to gray to yellow. They live close to the human scalp, as it is their source of food, warmth, and shelter. Although it’s unpleasant to think about, head lice feed on blood taken from the scalp every three to six hours.
Head lice are the most prevalent form of lice and are most commonly found in school-aged children. It is estimated that roughly 6 to 12 million individuals in the United States alone are affected by head lice annually.
Despite what you may have heard before, these creepy crawlies do not prefer a certain type of hair. Whether the hair is dyed, natural, curly, straight, short or long, makes no difference whatsoever to lice. It all looks the same; like a nice place to call home. There’s only one type of scalp that is unappealing to lice - a scalp without hair. Lice create a habitat and shelter out of hair. Thus, shaving the head bald removes their habitat and forces lice to evacuate. They are incapable of infesting or re-infesting a head that has no hair.
Life Cycle of Lice
From start to finish, the entire life cycle of lice is around 30 days. An adult female louse is able to lay up to ten eggs - also called nits - per day for the duration of her adult life, which is around 20 days. Lice eggs are strongly adhered to the hair shaft, just a few millimeters from the scalp, as they need the warmth of a human’s scalp to help them hatch. A nit is the shape of a tear drop and can be clear, tan, dark brown, or white, depending on what stage they’re in. They are exceptionally tiny, just 0.5 to 0.8 mm in size.Nits take around seven to ten days to hatch.
It’s important to note that once nits have hatched, they leave their empty eggshells behind on the hair. Although these empty eggshells will stay on the hair until removed by a fine-toothed comb, they cannot be a source of re-infestation. They are simply empty shells.
Once a nit hatches, a nymph is born. A nymph is an immature louse and will go through three molts over a 7 to 10 day period before officially becoming an adult head louse. Then the female adult lice mate with the males, and the cycle begins again.
How Do Head Lice Spread?
The primary form of lice transmission is from head-to-head contact, or simply from person-to-person contact.This typically occurs when children are playing and bump or touch their heads together. It can also happen when hugging, napping, and playing games in close contact. It is also possible to get lice by using an infested person’s comb or brush, or by wearing their clothing or hats.
Lice are limited to crawling. They actually don't have hind legs or wings, so they are incapable of jumping and flying. Although crawling is their only mode of transportation, they sure can crawl fast! Lice can move as quickly as 23cm per minute.
Head lice can also be acquired by placing the head on fabric furniture - such as a couch or bed - that has come into contact with someone who has head lice. Stuffed animals, pillows, towels, and carpets can also be modes for lice transmission;however, the survival rate of lice on these items are low. Lice can only survive off of a human host for a maximum of 3 days. And any nits that have come off the head can only stay viable for 3 days as well, before they die from lack of warmth.
What Are The Symptoms of Head Lice?
There are several symptoms of head lice, including:
- Itching or burning sensation
- Tickling across the head and neck
- Sores from excessive scratching
- Tiny red, swollen bumps
- Insomnia – lice like the dark and are most active at night
- Presence of insects on the scalp
It’s important to note that individuals may display no symptoms of head lice. This is particularly common if it’s a person’s first infestation of lice. As the Journal of Paediatrics & Child Health attests:
Itching occurs if the individual with lice becomes sensitized to antigenic components in the saliva injected as the louse feeds. On the first infestation, sensitization commonly takes 4 to 6 weeks. However, some individuals remain asymptomatic and never itch.
- Journal of Paediatrics & Child Health (2018)
If someone doesn’t show any symptoms of head lice, it can make diagnosing them extremely difficult. A child who doesn’t scratch his head or feel itchy on his scalp couldn't possibly have caught lice from his classmates, right? Wrong!Unfortunately, as the aforementioned medical journal explains, the immune system needs to develop sensitivity to lice saliva, which is injected into the scalp as they feed. Just because symptoms of lice are not present, doesn’t mean that lice aren’t present.
Checking For Head Lice
Because of their small size, a fine-toothed comb, bright light, and magnifying glass will assist in detecting the presence of head lice. They are most frequently found along the scalp or within two inches from the scalp on the hair shaft. A common myth is that lice are more common on the nape of the neck and behind the ears.In reality, they can be found anywhere on the head where there is hair. Technically, they can be found on the eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair on men. However, even in the thousands of heavily infested heads we’ve treated, we’ve never seen lice in those areas.
Because dry scalp can commonly be mistaken for lice nits, an easy check is to rub the scalp or comb the hair. Nits are cemented to the hair shaft very close to the scalp. This means that nits are difficult to remove.Whereas it is easy for dry scalp to come off when combed, brushed, or pulled off the hair sideways with your fingers, nits cannot be pulled off the hair shaft easily. The only way to remove nits with your fingers is by grabbing them securely between two fingernails and sliding them down to the bottom of the hair strand and off the hair. You will not be able to remove a nit by pulling it sideways off the hair strand, like you can with dry scalp particles.
A special fine-toothed nit removal comb like the Terminator Nit Comb is the most effective way to remove nits. Once removed, use your magnifying glass to check the shape, color, and texture. Nits are teardrop-shaped, clear, tan, dark brown, or white, and will have a smooth surface. Dry scalp, of course, is usually irregularly shaped, white, and flaky.
If unsure, a health care provider may be able to assist in diagnosing head lice. Be aware though that some health care providers are better than others at recognizing nits. We have had many people come into our offices who were told by medical professionals that they had nits, when in reality they had dry scalp. And the reverse happens as well; people are told they have dry scalp but it’s actually nits.
Is It Easy To Diagnose Head Lice?
Head lice are diagnosed by finding an actual live louse or nits on the head or scalp. The reality of diagnosing lice is that the bugs move quickly, hide from light, and can blend in with the hair(depending on the hair color), which makes them difficult to see.So even when someone has an active lice infestation, you might never catch sight of the live bugs with a visual inspection. For this reason, you should be looking for the nits, since they are glued to the hair shaft and cannot move away from you.
Unfortunately, researchers have found that parents, teachers, caregivers, and even school nurses frequently misdiagnose and treat lice.Instead of recognizing dry scalp, lint, or residue from hair products, these individuals think they see nits instead. And the reverse is true as well: they will see nits but think it is dry scalp particles or product residue.
In fact, researchers from the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that:
Health care professionals as well as non-specialists frequently over diagnoses pediculosis capitis (lice) and generally fail to distinguish active from extinct infestations.
- The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (2000)
That means that traditional over-the-counter and prescription lice products are excessively over-applied. Unfortunately, these lice treatment products are not effective against Super Lice and have potentially dangerous side effects and long term effects, due to the toxic pesticides in them!
Head Lice Treatment Options
There are numerous over-the-counter and prescription head lice treatment products out there. In many cases, these treatment products are insufficient at getting rid of head lice. This is because lice have evolved into pesticide-resistant parasites, known as Super Lice. These over-the-counter and prescription head lice treatment products also contain some pretty scary ingredients, the same ones that are found in bug bombs and dog flea collars.
The main ingredients in over-the-counter products are pyrethrin and permethrin, which have actually been linked to elevated estrogen levels, hyperactivity, and behavior disorders in children.
Prescription lice medication is often made with the main active ingredient, Lindane. Lindane has been proven to cause cancer and brain damage. It is regarded as both carcinogenic and neurotoxic.
Since there are long-term repercussions of using such harsh and dangerous insecticide treatments, which are often over-applied due to misdiagnosis and are ineffective due to the prevalence of Super Lice, it is crucial to have a way to rid you and your family of lice safely and effectively.
That's the million-dollar question, isn’t it: how to successfully eradicate lice from your family while not facing any health risks or fear of ineffectiveness. The cost-effective answer to the million-dollar question is Lice Choice.
Lice Choice treatment products are free of toxic chemicals and pesticides.Our unique formula was created by using non-toxic digestive enzymes. When our concentrated formula is applied, the lice’s life cycle is rapidly expedited by breaking down their exoskeleton, causing their life to end in minutes instead of weeks! Since Super Lice and lice have the exact same digestive enzymes, it’s impossible for any and all lice to develop a resistance to Lice Choice!
Lice Choice should be your number one line of defense against lice, given its efficacy against lice and Super Lice, and its chemical-free, organic, non-toxic formula that is safe on all skin types - even on babies, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who have extra-sensitive skin!
Can I Treat Lice With Home Remedies?
Many home remedies include applying an oil-based substance like olive oil, mayonnaise, or petroleum jelly to the scalp and hair to suffocate the live bugs to kill them. However, Ian Burgess, head of the Medical Entomology Centre, has found that lice are able to shut down their breathing system at will. Lice can close their breathing holes, which makes them capable of going into a state of suspended animation so they can survive without oxygen for hours on end. So there are several problems with the oil-based home remedies:
- The hair must be thoroughly saturated from the scalp to the ends. If you leave any dry spots, the lice will hide out in those spots and survive.
- You must leave the oil on the hair for a MINIMUM of four hours for it to be effective.
- Oil is messy and difficult to wash out of the hair!
Other remedies often include essential oils like tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, and neem. There is no clinical evidence to prove their effectiveness in treating head lice. As a matter of fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends that parents do NOT use home remedies such as essential oils to get rid of lice. As they explain:
Although many plants naturally produce insecticides for their own protection that may be synthesized for use by humans, such as pyrethroids, some of these insecticidal chemicals produce toxic effects as well. The safety and efficacy of herbal products are currently not regulated by the FDA, and until more data are available, their use in infants and children should be avoided.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (2015)
A Word About Super Lice
Super lice have evolved from regular lice to be resistant to over-the-counter lice treatments and insecticides. In fact, a 2016 study from the Oxford Journal of Medical Entomology found that lice samples taken from 48 of the 50 states in the U.S. were actually 95% Super Lice. Super Lice are distinguished only by the resistance factor. Super Lice look no different from regular head lice and present identical symptoms.
The normal over-the-counter head lice remedies that contain permethrin and pyrethrin don’t have any effect on Super Lice. These products do not kill, harm, or even hurt Super Lice.
As the only genetic difference between lice and Super Lice is their resistance to chemicals and pesticides, you don’t have to question Lice Choice’s effectiveness. Super Lice and lice respond to the same digestive enzymes, so no matter what type of head lice show up in your home, Lice Choice is there to defend your family and kick lice to the curb.
Ways to Prevent Against Head Lice Re-infestation
Clothes and bed linens worn and used by those infected with head lice up to three days before beginning treatment should be put in the dryer at high heat for 30 minutes. Another option is to place the clothes, bed linens, car seats, and stuffed animals in plastic bags for two weeks. Even though head lice cannot survive beyond 72 hours on cloth surfaces and items, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocates for a two-week period of keeping potentially infested items in bags and away from human contact.
It is also important to soak any combs or brushes used by those affected by lice in hot water at a temperature of no less than 130 degrees Fahrenheit for up to ten minutes.
If you are not keen on bagging up half your home for two weeks, then spraying with Lice Choice Household Spray keeps lice at bay. Our Lice Choice Household Spray is the simplest way to eradicate lice and Super Lice from items and surfaces that have come in contact with a lice-infested person.
Each spray is filled with our potent formula that has been proven effective against lice and Super Lice. Since our formula is natural, organic, and chemical-free, you can rest assured that it will not stain or damage your carpets, couches, or any other cloth materials. And it is safe for homes with pets, too.
When deciding how best to prevent lice, eradicate lice, or avoid a lice re-infestation, remember that the same Lice Choice formula that we use in our treatment clinics is the same in the products we sell here online. Gentle on skin, tough on lice!