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Facts About Head Lice

Head Lice

Head lice are parasites that invade millions of households each year. In the U.S. alone, over 12 million cases of head lice are reported annually; second only to the common cold among childhood illnesses. Lice are more often found on children because they are less protective of their personal space. While it may seem we see more cases of head lice during the school months, it is not due to a ‘lice season’. Lice happen all year round. Check out our head lice cleaning tips.

Who Does Head Lice Affect?

Head lice touches all walks of life. No person of any class, age, sex, race or ethnicity is resistant. Having head lice does not mean you have poor hygiene. Lice prefer clean healthy hair. Head lice do not live on pets or in the environment. Their environment is only on the human head; not the couch, carpet, bed or stuffed animals.

Head Lice Eggs Image

Why Do You Get Head Lice?

There are many reasons people seem to get head lice repeatedly. First and foremost is the likelihood that they were never past it in the first place. Secondly is the fact that they are likely back in the same environment, sharing close contact with the same individuals, thus exposing themselves to the risk of re-infestation. Additionally, when lice feed on us, they leave a scent behind, which attracts other lice. No one is exactly sure how long the scent lasts but we encourage our clients to be extremely cautious for a period of 3 weeks after battling a case of head lice.

How Do You Get Head Lice?

Head lice do not jump or fly, it is anatomically impossible, as they have no hind legs or wings. Lice are 1mm-4mm long & can travel 9 inches a minute. They are primarily transmitted through head to head contact. However, it is possible to pick up a “hitchhiker” through a comb, hat or abandoned strand of hair with a louse still attached. It’s suspected that less than 2% of all lice cases are contracted in this manner. Contact The Lice Guides to make your head lice treatment appointment.

Head Lice Development Stages

How Large Are Head Lice?

Every nymph you remove is a living, breathing parasite just waiting to start a family of its own. Nymphs come in 3 sizes: 1st stage, 2nd stage and 3rd stage. Newer terminology refers to them as “instar,” rather than stages. Regardless of what you call them, they are difficult to remove and even more difficult to find. Imagine you are holding a pencil that is sharpened to a very fine point, that point is how tiny a newly hatched nymph is and one of the primary reasons it is so difficult to remove. Newly hatched nymphs live directly on the scalp. They look like little specks of dirt or a tiny freckle. Tap it; if it takes off running, it’s a live bug.

Where Do You Look For Head Lice?

Lice bites & nits are most often found behind the ears, crown of the head, nape of the neck and in the bang area. These are called “hot spots”. Nits are coated with a fixative that cements them to the hair shaft. Because the chemical structure of this fixative substance is very similar to that of the hair shaft, researchers have yet to develop a product that will completely dissolve the fixative without damaging the hair. We have a head lice guarantee on all of our services.

Adult Female Louse and Head Lice Egg Images

What Are Head Lice Symptoms?

You can have head lice 4 to 6 weeks before you begin itching & 50% of people have no symptoms at all. Itching occurs when an infested person has an allergic reaction to the saliva the lice secretes to feed.

Research has not shown the head louse to be a vector of serious disease; however they have been shown to transmit Staphylococcus aureus and Group A Streptococcus pyogenes resulting in infections of the scalp. The fact that lice have a low morbidity rate & are fairly host-specific certainly reduces the odds of spreading disease. Intense itching at the site of the bite compels the host to scratch, often breaking the skin open. The open scratches, in turn, create an entryway for germs and lice feces that can lead to a secondary infection and swollen glands in the neck. With a large number of lice bites, an individual may be feverish and feeling tired and irritable due to lack of sleep, hence the term “feeling lousy.”

How Do Head Lice Survive?

Head lice need human blood to survive. As long as you have blood in your body, there is no way to ensure that you never get head lice. Lice must feed on blood. “What type?” you ask. The answer is simple: whatever type they are used to feeding on. Think of a blood transfusion. If you were to receive blood, you must get a blood type that is compatible with yours. To do otherwise could kill you. The same holds true with head lice.

Unlike many external parasites that can endure starvation and extremes of temperature, lice and their eggs can survive only under a relatively narrow set of environmental conditions. From their first blood meal to their last, lice prefer to feed every 4-6 hours and cannot survive if they miss several consecutive meals. Also, lice require a temperature of 87-95 degrees for continued survival, and prolonged temperatures below 65 degrees or above 97 degrees are fatal.

Head lice, like chameleons, have the ability to adapt to their environment. Lice found on dark-haired or dark-skinned individuals will most likely be darker than those found on blond-haired or lighter-skinned individuals, making complete lice and nit removal an overwhelming task.

The fact is that lice are amazing critters. They lock their claw-like legs onto the hair shaft allowing them to hang on for dear life, therefore they cannot be drowned or washed away and they have the ability to shut down their nervous system. Lice can remain submersed and unharmed for up to 2 hours, even in products intended to kill them. During laboratory testing, head lice have been found to play dead, only to move again when submersed for less than two hours.

How Do Head Lice Reproduce?

Twenty-four hours after mating, the female head louse lays her nits.  Under optimum conditions, a healthy female will lay approximately 140 eggs during her lifetime of about 30 days.

Eggs, as they are commonly called, need to be incubated with precise heat & humidly levels in order to hatch. Separated from the head, most adult lice are dead (from dehydration) within 24 hours & nymphs are dead within 3 hours. Thus, only eggs, nymphs & adults on the head should cause concern.

Head Lice Reproduction Cycle

What About Over-the-Counter Head Lice Products?

Over the counter head lice products are not completely safe. Most are toxic pesticides & like most insects, after 30+ years of using the same pesticide, the lice have built up a resistance. The active ingredient in RID and NIX is the pesticide permethrin. The latest studies show it’s only 46% effective in killing lice & does not kill the nits.