Human Head Lice Facts & Information

Protect your home or business from human head lice by learning techniques for identification and control.

Pediculus humanus capitis
1/8 inch
Grey or tan
6 legs & wingless
Flat body
Piercing-sucking mouthparts

Treatment

How do I get rid of human head lice?

What You Can Do

Lice can be removed manually with specially designed combs and can be treated with over-the counter or prescribed medications. Also laundering of all bedding and clothing using hot water and the hot setting on a clothes dryer will help reduce the chances of spreading head lice. Your pest management professional can provide important information and recommendations for head lice management; however, it is best to contact your family physician or another health professional should head lice become a problem.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Understanding Human Head Lice

Appearance

  • Size: Adults are about 1/8 inch long, about the size of a sesame seed and grey or tan colored. Nymphs are about 1/16-1/8 inch long, are grey or tan colored and look like a smaller version of an adult louse. Louse eggs measure about 1/16 of an inch.

  • Characteristics: Head lice are blood-sucking insects that live in human hair. Primarily found on the scalp, these wingless, six-legged pests do not live on pets.

  • Body: Head lice are flat and their legs have a claw that enables them to grasp hair shafts as they feed using their piercing-sucking mouthparts.

  • Color: Eggs look translucent, white, or yellow-brown.

Diet

Head lice are parasitic on humans since they take blood meals by puncturing the skin and sucking blood several times a day.

Habitat

Head lice live on the skin among the hairs on the head. If someone is heavily infested, lice may be found in the eyebrows and eyelashes.

Geographic Range

Head lice are found throughout the United States.

Life Cycle

Lice appear in three life stages – eggs (nits), nymphs (juvenile adults) and adults. Adult female head lice normally produce 5-6 eggs per day for about 30 days. After hatching, lice go through the nymph stage where they molt three times before reaching adulthood.

Nymphs are about 1/16-1/8 inch long, are grey or tan colored and look like a smaller version of an adult louse. Louse eggs measure about 1/16 of an inch. Eggs look translucent, white, or yellow-brown.

Lifespan

Should a nymph or adult head louse become dislodged from their human host, they survive for only 1-2 days. This is because they are dependent upon the host for blood meals, moisture, and suitable warmth. While eggs may survive for up to three days off the human host, they do not hatch at temperatures lower than those near the scalp. Nits hatch about 5-10 days after being laid.

Head Lice & Dogs

Unlike fleas that affect canines, cats, rodents etc., human head lice cannot survive without a viable host on which to feed. Human head lice are endemic to humans and will not affect dogs, though other species of lice have been known to bite dogs.

Lice vs. Fleas

A flea infestation can easily be confused for a lice infestation. Fleas are pests which do affect dogs, and they infest homes and yards quickly. They may live within the carpet of a home for months before emerging as pests. Fleas, like lice, can bite humans, as well.

If your pet shows signs of excessive itching or restlessness, he or she may be harboring fleas. Be sure to clean all bedding and check for signs of flea infestations around your home. Should a flea infestation become evident, contact your pest control professional and veterinarian for treatment options.

More Information

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