What does head lice look like?

How do I identify head lice?

Head lice are small flat insects approximately the size of a grain of basmati rice (2 - 4 mm long) when fully grown. They do not have wings and are therefore crawling insects that can only be caught through head to head contact. They can not fly.

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As shown in the banner picture for this site, they have six legs. The front two legs have strong claws allowing the head louse to grip to the hair follicle or the scalp whilst feeding or procreating.

Are head lice easy to spot?

Head lice have a useful ability (for them) of changing colour to blend with the hair colour of their host. For this reason, when considering " What does head lice look like ?", you need to be prepared for the colour of these insects to range from almost translucent (when on blonde hair) right through to almost black (on dark hair). When my family has had lice I have seen all manner of shades by the time I have checked everyone's scalps. Delightful!

The tickling sensation of lice moving on the scalp if often experienced most intensely on the crown of the head, behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. With a serious head louse infestation , you will be able to detect movement on the head without even going close. With a small number of lice a bit more detective work is needed.

Newly hatched lice usually appear as almost black and start life about the size of a pin head.

Using good lighting, move slowly over the scalp separating hairs. By looking closely at the scalp you may strike lucky and spot a moving head louse . The more effective way to catch them is to check the head with a nit comb and some hair conditioner or by spotting eggs or nits (empty cases of hatched head lice ).

What other visual clues might identify head lice?

The growing louse eggs look like tiny white / brown ovals. These will be glued firmly to the hair right next to the scalp so that the newly hatched louse can start feeding straight away. If you see white dots (in severe cases like little grains of sand on the hair - but particularly under the hair near the ears or the nape of the neck) these indicate newly hatched lice. However, if nits are more than a quarter of an inch away from the scalp then that will identify head lice that hatched some time ago.

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Posted in Other Health and Medical Post Date 09/24/2021


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