Frequently Asked Questions About Lice


Lice Reproduction Cycle

Where do lice come from?

Many people believe that head lice originate in the ground or come from the air, however this is not the case.  Lice have existed as far back as history goes, and are human parasites that have been discovered on the scalps and hair of Egyptian mummies – in their dead, dried-up form of course.

Can head lice jump or fly?

Because these pesky bugs have no hind legs or wings, they’re incapable of jumping, hopping, or flying.

How long does a head louse live?

Head lice typically cannot survive for more than 72 hours without a host (person), and a single louse can survive for about 30 days when on a host.  Each day, four to six eggs are laid by a female louse, with these eggs hatching in four to nine days.  Female lice mature over a period of about two weeks, then mate and begin laying eggs.

Is a nit different from an egg?

While some refer to an egg as a viable egg and a nit as an “empty shell” there is no difference between the two.

Can you distinguish whether nits (eggs) are dead or alive?

Regardless of whether eggs (nits) are dead or alive, no one wants them in their hair.  Some people choose to “pop” the eggs in an effort to determine whether a louse is alive or dead, although this isn’t a proven technique.  Your time and effort are better spent ensuring ALL nits are removed.

How do head lice spread from one person to another?

Contact through the sharing of brushes, combs, hats, pillows, towels, and other personal items is the most common way head lice are spread from one individual to another.

Can your pet contract head lice?

No.  Head lice require human blood to live, and therefore cannot survive on pets – no worry about humans transmitting lice to pets, or vice versa.

Can you “catch” head lice by swimming with others who may be infected?

Head lice remain locked to the hair even when in water, although they go into a state of suspended animation.  Lice are capable of surviving rain, swimming pools, even through shampooing, however the sharing of towels is what typically results in head lice being spread from one person to another.

Do you need to be concerned about head lice and disease?

While it could be possible for head lice to carry diseases such as relapsing fever or typhus according to DNA technology, no diseases related to a lice infestation have been reported to date.

Should every member of your family be treated?

It isn’t recommended that treatment be used as a precautionary measure.  Instead, carefully inspect all members of your household by hand or using a nit removal comb to determine whether the infestation has spread.

How to ensure furnishings are clear of lice and/or their nits?

Because lice require human blood to live, they cannot thrive on furnishings.  Spraying pesticides or other chemicals on bedding or furniture is not necessary or effective.  To remove head lice or hair, it’s best to vacuum rugs, vehicles, children’s stuffed animals, and any furnishings that are upholstered.

Bagging bedding, stuffed animals, etc.

Wash sheets and pillow cases in hot water and dry on the warmest setting to ensure head lice are washed away and killed.  It isn’t necessary to wash pillows, mattress pads, or other underlying covers as lice will starve and die within three days.  For items that cannot be washed, bag up in trash bags or other plastic covering over this period of time to isolate stuffed animals and other items from other belongings.

Should you toss brushes, combs, or hair accessories?

It isn’t necessary, because head lice can only survive on human hosts.  All you need to do is place these items in the freezer for a 24-hour period in a plastic bag, or soak combs or other hair accessories in HOT water for 20 minutes.  Placing hair tools and accessories on the top rack of the dishwasher is also effective for killing head lice.