Head Lice Facts

There's a lot to learn about head lice and nits! Here's some interesting information that will help you understand more about head lice and nits.

Did you know that head lice and nits are technically different? Strictly speaking, nits are actually the unhatched eggs of head lice!

Nits Fact Sheet

‘Nits’ and ‘lice’ are often used interchangeably, but for nitpickers, nits and lice are technically two different things. Strictly speaking, nits are the unhatched eggs laid by adult female head lice. 

Let’s learn all you need to know about nits! 

Biology & Characteristics

Fact 1: Nits are Tiny!

Nits are tiny, oval-shaped, and often appear yellow to white in colour. Nits are about the size of a pinhead or a knot in a thread, usually less than 1 millimetre in size. Because of this, they are usually hard to see. 

Fact 2: Nits are Firmly Attached to Hair

Nits are laid by female lice and attached to the base of the hair shaft near the scalp using a connective glue. This adhesive is strong enough to keep the nits attached even during hair washing or brushing. 

Fact 3: Nits are Also Sensitive to Temperatures

The placement of nits close to the scalp is crucial for temperature regulation. Nits need the warmth of the scalp to incubate properly – they love darkness and human heat, so you’ll often find them behind the ears or around the nape of the neck. Unfortunately for us, this can make them tricky to find and remove!    

Fact 4. Nits are Often Misidentified 

Due to their small size and appearance, nits can resemble dandruff or hair debris. Proper identification is essential to avoid unnecessary treatments.

How do I Know if I Have Nits?

Due to their small size and appearance, nits can resemble dandruff or hair debris. Proper identification is essential to avoid unnecessary treatments.

Fact 5: Nits can Take Over a Week to Hatch

After being laid, nits take approximately 7 to 10 days to hatch. The warmth and humidity near the scalp provide an ideal environment for this process. If a nit is removed from the scalp and detached from a human host, it will not be able to survive and hatch into a nymph.  

If the nit hatches, it releases a nymph, which is an immature louse. The nymph matures into an adult louse within about 9 to 12 days. 

Fact 6: Not all Nits Hatch

Thankfully, even under the right conditions, some nits might be infertile or damaged, which leads to unsuccessful hatching.

Transmission & Social Factors

Fact 7. Nits Aren’t as Easy to Spread as Live Lice 

Nits cannot be transferred directly from one person to another as they are attached to hairs. Only live lice can crawl and spread to others. However, nits can be transferred indirectly if the hair they are attached to is transferred also – this can happen through sharing items, like hats, pillows or hairbrushes. 

If nits are removed during grooming, they are not likely to pose a significant risk of reinfesting someone else if they are disposed of properly - without the warmth and humidity of the human scalp, nits typically cannot survive for more than a week.

Should I Send my Kids to School?

Depending on where you live in Australia, children may not necessarily be excluded from school if headlice or nits are detected. Your school will advise parents on the detection and management of head lice outbreaks through letters or emails to parents of students in affected classes Be sure to consider other kids (and their parents!) and make sure you follow your schools advice and treat children’s hair  before returning school in order to reduce the chance of the head lice spreading.

Biology & Characteristics

Fact 8: Nits are Protected Against Some Treatments

Nits are encased in a protective shell, which shields the developing louse inside, making it difficult for some treatments to penetrate and kill the developing louse. The KP24 Lice Egg Remover works by breaking down the connective glue nits use to attach to hairs in order to enable an increased number of nits to be removed. Thankfully, there are KP24 products are formulated to kill both lice and nits! Remember to always read the product label and follow the direction for use.

Fact 9. Natural DIY Remedies for Head Lice are NOT Backed by Science

Here’s a head-scratcher for you: Whilst head lice infestation may be associated with an itchy scalp, this is an unreliable sign. Up to 50% of people with head lice may not experience itchiness. This is why regular checks are so important! 

Fact 10: Thorough Manual Removal is Part of the Process

Head lice primarily spread through direct head-to-head contact. School-aged children are especially susceptible due to their close interactions during play. Indirect transmission via personal items, such as hats or headphones, is less common but possible.

Head Lice Fact Sheet

Head lice (scientific name Pediculus humanus capitis) have been bothering humans for thousands of years. Archaeologists have discovered lice combs made of materials like bone and ivory, and even preserved nits in the hair of mummified human remains, dating back over 10,000 years. The relationship between humans and head lice is indeed an ancient one!

Biology & Characteristics

Fact 1: Anyone can be Infested with Head Lice

Head lice are found globally, regardless of climate, cleanliness, or socioeconomic status. This widespread presence indicates that virtually anyone can become infested.

Fact 2: Head Lice are Human Parasites

Head lice are ectoparasites that feed on human blood several times a day. Their bites may lead to an allergic reaction, causing red, irritated bumps on the scalp, often accompanied by intense itching. The warmth and moisture of the human scalp provide the perfect environment for them to thrive, and they are entirely dependent on human hosts to survive.

Without a human host, head lice can only survive 1 to 2 days. Their dependence on human blood limits their ability to infest environments away from human contact.

Can Head Lice Live on Animals?

No. Unlike some other pests, head lice are adapted specifically to human hosts and cannot live on animals or pets. This human-specific adaptation affects the strategies used to treat and prevent infestations.

Fact 3: Head Lice Size is 2-3mm Long

Adult head lice are quite small, about 2-3 millimetres long and are tan or greyish-white which helps them blend into various hair shades. Their tiny size allows them to navigate and hide within the human hair, making detection without careful examination challenging.

Check out our head lice pictures to see for yourself just how small these pests can be!

Fact 4: Head Lice Cannot Jump

Head lice have six legs, each equipped with claws that allow them to tightly grasp human hair, making them resistant normal washing or brushing. However, despite common myths, head lice cannot jump! While their movement might seem "quick" in the context of crawling through hair, particularly when they are trying to evade detection or removal, they are not known for their raw speed and cannot jump between hair strands.

Fact 5: Head Lice Reproduce Rapidly

Female lice can lay several eggs (nits) per day, attaching them securely to hair shafts near the scalp. Head lice typically live about 30 days on a human scalp. The rapid reproduction rate can quickly lead to a full-blown infestation if left unchecked: a single adult female lice can lay over a hundred eggs in her lifetime! Learn more about the life cycle of head lice.

Fact 6: Head Lice can Survive Underwater

Head lice can close their spiracles (the equivalent of nostrils) to protect themselves from water and some chemical treatments, allowing them to survive underwater for several hours.

Fact 7: Head Lice are Sensitive to Temperature

Head lice cannot survive extreme temperatures, such as very hot water or freezing cold. This sensitivity is often utilized in treatment strategies like washing infested clothing in hot water or freezing personal items.

Does Shampoo Kill Head Lice?

No, normal shampoos do not treat head lice as they do not contain substances harmful to head lice. Head lice have evolved over time and have developed ways to survive washing. Being able to survive in water and their tight grip on hair are just some of the reasons why a specially formulated head lice shampoo is required for treatment.

While hot water can kill lice, it's essential to note that using such hot water can cause burns on skin, and is not recommended to try hot baths and showers as a treatment method.

Transmission & Social Factors

Fact 8: Lice are Common in Primary School Children

Children between ages 3 and 11 are the most commonly affected group. Their close physical interactions make them more susceptible to infestations, leading to frequent outbreaks in schools and childcare settings. According to NSW Health, studies suggest that approximately 1 in 4 primary school children in Australia have head lice!

Fact 9: Many Lice Infestations are Aysmptomatic

Here’s a head-scratcher for you: a study found that as little as 35% of children with a head lice infestation actually had itchy scalps. This is why regular checks are so important! Be sure to also check the entire family for head lice to prevent re-infestations.

Fact 10: Head Lice Transmission is Usually Direct

Head lice primarily spread through direct head-to-head contact. School-aged children are especially susceptible due to their close interactions during play. Indirect transmission via personal items, such as hats or headphones, is less common but possible.

Fact 11: Head Lice Like Clean Hair Too

Many people wrongfully associate head lice with being dirty; however, head lice infestations have nothing to do with cleanliness! Your chances of getting head lice remain the same no matter your personal hygiene.

Health Impact & Treatment

Fact 12: Head Lice are NOT Disease Carriers

Head lice are not vectors for any known diseases, making them less of a medical concern. The primary issues associated with infestations are discomfort, irritation, and social stigma.

Fact 13: Head Lice can Cause Severe Itching

While head lice themselves don’t carry any diseases, bites from head lice often (but not always) lead to itching and scratching, which may result in secondary skin infections in severe cases if not treated properly. The itching sensation might not develop immediately after infestation, if at all, complicating early detection.

Fact 14: Head Lice Shouldn't be Embarrassing

While head lice don’t discriminate, some people may - head lice infestations are all too often stigmatized which may lead to embarrassment or reluctance to seek treatment. It’s important to remember that head lice can happen to anyone and prompt treatment is advised.

Fact 15: Head Lice Treatment is Multi-Faceted

Effective treatment often involves a combination of specialized products, thorough combing with a fine-toothed comb and active prevention techniques to prevent reinfestation.

Your 3-STEP Treatment Guide.

For thorough treatment, it is important that you treat head lice by following the treatment directions on pack. Some treatments require use of a metal tooth comb and combing solution to complete the treatment and some treatments require you to repeat treatment 7 days after the initial treatment.

treatStep 1: TREAT
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Need a treatment solution for head lice? KP24 offers treatments tailored to your family's head lice needs.

removeStep 2: REMOVE
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Need nits removed? For effective nit removal, use KP24 products specifically designed for head lice and egg elimination. 

repelStep 3: REPEL AND PREVENT
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Want to prevent head lice and nits? KP24 has head lice defence sprays as well as preventative shampoos for your family.