Lice live on your scalp and make your head itchy. Other than this, how much do you really know about these pests? Knowing a bit more about head lice will come in handy if you ever find yourself facing an infestation of these parasites. To get you started on your educational journey, here are 10 interesting facts about lice.
1. Lice Do Not Spread Disease
Finding out you have head lice can be a bit nerve wracking, but rest assured—these pests are pretty harmless compared to other bugs. Unlike ticks, mosquitos, and fleas, they are not known to spread any diseases.
You do want to have an infestation treated promptly since all of that itching can lead to sores that could become infected. However, you don’t need to worry about contracting a serious disease like malaria or Lyme disease from the lice.
2. Lice Are Incredibly Common in the United States
There’s truly no reason to be embarrassed if you contract head lice. You’re not alone! Between 6 and 12 million people end up with lice every year in the United States. It’s most common in school-aged children, but adults get it, too. Anyone who comes into contact with another person who has lice is at risk, no matter how clean their clothes, hair, and home are.
3. Lice Have a Three-Stage Lifecycle
When the nurse looks over your head or your child’s head and spots lice, what they see are not always adult lice. They often spot nits, which are louse eggs, before they see an actual adult louse. Adult lice lay eggs, or nits, along the base of the hair shaft.
About eight days later, these eggs hatch into nymphs, which are tiny, immature lice. After another 9 to 12 days of feeding, nymphs mature into adults about the size of a sesame seed. Adults are often difficult to spot because they scurry away so quickly.
4. There Are Many Species of Lice
The term “louse” actually refers to a group of approximately 5,000 related insects in the order Phthiraptera. However, only three of these species regularly interact with humans.
Pediculus humanus capitis is the species name of the head louse, which is the most commonly dealt-with of the three. Pediculus humanus corporis is the body louse, and Pediculus pubis is the pubic louse. Other louse species live on chimpanzees, horses, dogs, and other mammals but do not bother humans.
5. Lice Can Be Passed Indirectly
In other words, you do not need to have direct contact with someone who is infested with head lice in order to contract lice. If an infested person uses a hat, comb, or towel and you later use that same hat, comb, or towel, you may end up with lice. Adult lice can live away from a host for about two days.
6. Lice Don’t Always Cause Symptoms.
You always hear about lice making people exceedingly itchy. You see videos of people relentlessly scratching their heads as the lice bite at their scalps. But the truth is, some people experience little to no itching when they’re infested with lice.
Your level of discomfort depends on how heavily you’re infested and how sensitive your scalp is. This is one reason why it’s so important for school-aged kids to be regularly checked for lice. You can’t always rely on itching as an indicator.
7. Female Lice Can Lay Up to Eight Nits Per Day
What starts off as a mild lice infestation can quickly develop into a heavy one. With females laying up to eight nits per day, it does not take long for a few lice to reproduce and become several hundred. The sooner a lice infestation is discovered, the easier it is to treat—largely because there are fewer lice.
8. You Can’t Pass Lice to Your Pet
As discussed above, there are many different species of lice, and those that infest dogs and cats are different than those that bother humans. So don’t worry about snuggling with your dog or cat after you’ve been diagnosed with lice. You can’t pass the pests on to them.
9. Lice Have Bothered Humans for Centuries
There are records of lice infestations dating back to the 1200s, and they probably bothered humans even before this. In the Middle Ages, they used to treat lice with a mixture of pork fat, lead, aloe, and incense. Thankfully, today’s lice treatments are a lot safer—and less nauseating!
10. Penguins Carry 15 Species of Lice
If you do become infested with lice, just be thankful you’re not a penguin. They have it a lot worse, as there are 15 species of lice that bother them. And since penguins in the wild don’t have access to lice treatment, you can bet they spend a lot of their time itching.
Now that you know a bit more about these pests, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them if they ever do take up residence on your scalp. Do you have lingering questions about lice? Are you worried that you may be infested? Call our 24-hour Lice Line, and we’ll walk you through the diagnosis and treatment process.