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The Facts of Lice.
- Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the human scalp. Much like other parasites, they live by sucking blood. Lice cannot fly or jump; they can only crawl. Children often get head lice from head-to-head contact with other children, but may also get them by sharing personal items such as hats, combs, or headphones.
- Outbreaks of head lice in the United States are on the rise. An estimated 8 million cases are reported to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) each year, and statistics indicate that this number will continue to increase significantly in the coming years.
- Several recent studies report increasing resistance to commonly used pesticide products. In other words, most of the products you buy from your local drug store are less and less effective.
- There are three stages in the life of a louse. First there is an egg stage when the female louse lays eggs or "nits" at the base of the hair shaft. These nits can be very difficult to see, as they are light in color and look like dandruff. The eggs hatch in the second, or "nymph" stage. The young lice are difficult to spot with the naked eye. Stage three occurs approximately 10 days later when the nymph has grown into an adult louse. At this stage the small wingless insects can usually be detected with the naked eye. This last stage is when most of the itching occurs on the head that is infested.
- Without blood from the human head, lice can survive for only 24 to 48 hours. It is recommended that all clothing and bedding be washed in hot water. Items such as stuffed animals and pillows should be bagged and stored for 24 to 48 hours. In addition, vacuuming upholstery, carpet, and mattresses is recommended.
- Head lice affect all socio-economic groups and should not be an embarrassment for the person who has contracted it. In fact, lice prefer clean hair! The important thing is to treat the infestation immediately and take preventative measures for the future.