An excellent question, but one that is tough to answer. There are so many factors involved when it comes to head lice, and every situation is different. Although, in many cases the itching caused by these tiny critters can often be mistaken for dry scalp and dandruff. Additionally, lice are mostly active at night when their host is sleeping, which can make it even more challenging to identify an infestation. So how long can you have lice before noticing? First, we should cover the basics…
What is head lice infestation?
Pediculosis, or head lice infestation, has been an issue for humankind since the days of Ancient Egypt and beyond. Head lice (P humanus) are small, wingless insects found all over the world, affecting people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. These tiny bloodsuckers are host-specific, meaning they prefer humans and humans alone, and should not be confused with the lice that affect our pets. Lice inhabit the human head and lay their eggs (nits) close to the scalp, primarily behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Attaching her eggs with a glue-like substance to ensure a strong hold, the female louse can lay up to 100 eggs in her short life span of just 30 days. To see what lice and nits look like, check out this page, and if you are curious about a louse’s lifecycle, read more here.
How do people get lice?
How did I get lice?! Head lice is spread through direct head-to-head contact, or via the sharing of personal items such as hats, combs, brushes, scarves, etc. and are most prevalent in grade-school aged children. Why you ask? Children spend a lot of time in close quarters together, and haven’t yet developed a distaste for invasion of personal space that often comes with age. That is not to say adults are immune to head lice; lice will infest any human head regardless of age or social status if given the opportunity.
So, how long can a person have lice before noticing?
More often than not, head lice infestations are discovered early due to relentless itching. However, some individuals may not experience an itchy scalp at all. Truthfully, it varies widely! Discovery of an infestation could be within hours, a day or two, or even weeks. When identifying an infestation, if only a few lice and nits are present, it is safe to say the infestation is rather new. If an individual has several lice and nits, it is likely that the lice have inhabited their host for some time.
What do I do if I get head lice?
If an infestation is discovered, it doesn’t matter how long the offenders (lice) have been present. Find a proven treatment that kills lice and their eggs (one that kills ‘super lice’ is a bonus!), follow these steps to rid your life and home of lice, and you will be lice free in no time!