The head louse is a small parasitic insect of the size of a sesame, and it can be tan to grayish-white in color. The body of a head louse can be divided into three parts - head, thorax, and abdomen. The insect has six legs, all of which are equipped with claws that are used by the insect to cling to the hair shaft firmly. This wingless parasite thrives in the humid and warm environment of the scalp. A head louse uses its special needle-like mouth parts to pierce the skin of the scalp, in order to suck blood.
The scientific name of this parasitic insect is Pediculus humanus capitis, and the medical term used for a head lice infestation is 'pediculosis'. Head lice cannot burrow the skin and they do not carry any contagious diseases. However, the itching caused by their bites can be quite irritating, and scratching the affected area continuously can cause localized infections. Head lice spread from one person to another through direct head to head contact, for which they can be commonly found among young children.
The life cycle of a head louse can be divided into three stages - nit, nymph, and adult. An adult female head louse lays several eggs in a day, and glues them firmly to the hair shafts. The eggs, which are called nits, look like tiny dots attached to the hair shafts. Initially, the eggs are white in color, but they turn brown before hatching.
On an average, an adult female lays about 7 to 8 eggs per day. The eggs hatch within 7 to 10 days. After the eggs are hatched, the empty egg shells remain attached to the hair shafts. The egg shells look very similar to dandruff, but they do not fall off easily unlike dandruff.
The young lice are called nymphs, which closely resemble the adult lice, except for their size and color. The nymphs are usually yellow to rust-colored, and they are smaller than adults. They become mature within 7 days after hatching, and shed their exoskeleton thrice before reaching adulthood. The adult lice are larger than nymphs, and are brown in color. The entire life cycle is completed in about one month. The insect gets dehydrated easily, and so, it cannot survive for a long time once it falls off from the scalp. The lifespan of a head louse is about 30 days.
How to Get Rid of Lice Eggs?
The presence of lice eggs can be easily identified by examining the scalp and the hair shafts, and combing the hair with a fine-toothed comb. You can also use a special detection comb to look for these eggs. For an easy detection, wet your hair and comb the scalp and hair thoroughly. Examine the teeth of the comb each time after combing. The empty eggs shells can look like dandruff, but they remain firmly attached to the hair shaft and do not fall off easily.
To get rid of head lice, you can opt for insecticides, wet combing treatment, or silicon-based products, depending on the severity of the infestation. Physicians usually recommend medicated shampoos and lotions for head lice removal. The insecticidal products that are more commonly used for this purpose contain pyrethrin, permethrin, and malathion.
If the infestation is not very severe, and if you want to avoid the use of chemicals, then wet combing is the best option. The process is quite simple, as all you have to do is wet your hair and apply a conditioner, before combing your hair with a fine-toothed comb for about half an hour.
Along with these, a few home remedies can also help get rid of this insect. Olive oil, vinegar, coconut oil, mayonnaise, and essential oils, like eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil are some effective natural remedies for head lice. You can also use a paste of garlic and clove, as well as lemon juice for this purpose. Be sure to avoid close head to head contact with others, as well as sharing your comb, hair brush, ribbons, towels, hats, and other hair accessories to prevent future infestations.