Head Lice

Head lice are tiny little insects that live on the human scalp and back of the neck. Head lice make your scalp feel itchy.

The head louse is a wingless insect that looks a lot like an ant, although much smaller. The only difference between a head louse is that they are a lot smaller but have a longer abdomen; they also have long front legs, which they use to grip onto hair.

The life cycle of a head louse is about 6 weeks; this is from the egg being laid till the adults life ends. Below is a breakdown of this life cycle.

• The eggs are laid and take 7 to 9 days incubation

• The Nymph (new born head louse) goes through 3 stages before reaching adulthood

• The adult, now called a head louse, lives for approximately thirty days, the female head louse can lay between 3 and 6 eggs a day during this time.

How They Spread

Head lice are passed by head to head contact mainly but can sometimes be passed by clothing, sharing a hair brush or even from a pillow because of hair that may be on there.

Young children between the ages of four and eleven years old normally carry Head lice infestation from family to family because of the close proximity they get to other children through school and play time activities.


One way to tell if someone has a head lice infestation is if they itch their head a lot, this may not be a head lice infection. It may be that they are suffering with dandruff, but it is one of the main symptoms of head lice infestation.

Another sign to look out for are dead or empty eggs stuck to hairs that are growing out, these will look like small bits of dandruff an can be anything from white to brown in color.

The final sign is louse droppings, these look like a fine black powder, which can normally be seen on pillows and sheets.


There are different ways to treat head lice, one is to use olive oil on the hair and use a fine, louse comb to comb through the hair once a day for three or four days.

Another option is insecticides, these can come in crème or shampoo forms, and some of these take only a few minutes to work while others can take hours. The quicker the insecticide treatment works the stronger the insecticide is.

The insecticides that seem to be the most effective are those that are alcohol based, this is because the head lice may become resistant to insecticides but they cannot become immune to alcohol.

Alcohol based treatments do have to be used with care as those who suffer with eczema or asthma as it can cause complications with their conditions.

Overall head lice are more a nuisance than anything else, although some people do find and infestation very embarrassing. If you have children it is likely that they will have an infestation during childhood, but if you have treatments available at home then the infestation can easily be killed off.

Image. Head louse clinging to a hair (Scanning electron micrograph) Wellcome Images Creative Commons.