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What You Need to Know about the Life Cycle of Lice

hair-lice life cycle

Dealing with head lice can be a frustrating and stressful situation as they are tiny insects that are attached to the hair shaft of humans. Most people tend to avoid talking about the possible treatments for lice until they deal with such a situation. Lice are parasites that need some kind of host to survive and propagate. The human hair is their home, and the scalp is what they feed on. An estimated 6 to 12 million people get lice every year, out of which most of them are aged between 3 to 11 years. This is mainly because children are more prone to be in close contact with others while playing or interacting. The choice of treatment for head lice must be determined based on the stage of the louse to get the desired result. The life of a louse starts off as an egg and grows up to become a mature bug in just about 10 days.

Egg or Nit

Ice eggs, also called nits, are laid by the female louse on any fibrous material or the hair. The eggs are yellowish white and oval-shaped about the size of a poppy seed. These are difficult to see because the color blends easily with the hair. These nits are laid close to the scalp and are attached to the scalp with a glue-like substance. They are often confused with dandruff but cannot be removed by brushing or scratching them off. Unless a child has several head lice, it is common to notice nits in the hair than live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs take about a week or two to hatch after they are laid. The hair shell remains attached to the shaft as a white and clear substance. This is the best time to spot them as the eggshells are moving away from the scalp due to continuous hair growth.

Nymph

Once the nits are hatched, tiny insects, called a nymph, begins to emerge. The nymphs are clear in color and start to instantly feed on human blood, turning their color to reddish-brown. A nymph is most vulnerable at this stage as it does not have the protection of the shell. This is the best time to suffocate and kill them using a lice shampoo. Though they look like adult lice, they are actually small and are about the size of a pinhead. At this stage, they do not mate or lay eggs. It takes about 7 to 10 days for the nymphs to grow into a full adult louse. The lice nymph grows through three stages towards adulthood. After the third molt, which is about 16-17 days after the egg hatches, it enters the adult stage, which can reproduce.

Adult

The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed with six legs and a greyish-white tan. It is capable of laying three to eight eggs per day with a total of about 100 eggs throughout its life. This is why lice infestation escalates so quickly. After reaching adulthood, a louse survives for another couple of weeks if it can find a stable environment. If they fall off the human head, they don’t survive for more than two days due to a lack of food and a suitable environment.

A female louse needs to mate only once to produce eggs throughout her entire lifespan. All this information makes it necessary to understand the life cycle of a louse to determine the effective treatment method and manage lice infestation with ease.

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