These pictures of head lice show what lice look like at multiple stages of the lice life cycle.
Annually, head lice are estimated to affect over 12 million children. However, this number is believed to be much higher, as not all head lice cases are reported and tracked. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, adults can get head lice too! Head lice are not at all particular when it comes to age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class, they will infest any head of hair. Children are simply more likely to become infested with head lice as they often share personal items (hats, combs, etc.), and play in close contact with one another.
Knowing what head lice and eggs (nits) look like will help when performing head lice checks. If you have children in daycare or preschool, it is important to be proactive and check for head lice on a regular basis. If an outbreak occurs at your child’s school or daycare, perform head checks every couple of days. Once an outbreak has been contained, checking every two weeks will suffice. Or, if you or your children have had head lice, check daily after using a head lice treatment for 7 to 10 days after.
What do head lice look like?
Head lice look like small, wingless bugs equipped with 3 pairs of legs designed to crawl from hair strand to hair strand. Head lice are approximately the size of a sesame seed, and vary in color from clear to reddish brown. While head lice do not jump or fly, they can move quickly from one head to another.
What do lice eggs (nits) look like?
Head lice eggs, or nits, look like oval-shaped, white-ish brown specs, and are approximately the size of a poppy seed. If you are unsure if a white spec in the hair is a head lice egg or dandruff, blow on the spec, if it is easily dislodged it is dandruff; head lice eggs are firmly attached to the hair shaft with a glue-like substance, making them incredibly difficult to remove.
What do head lice look like in the hair?
As mentioned above, head lice look like tiny sesame seeds with legs, and reside mostly on the scalp and within the first ¼ inch of hair. Nits, or head lice eggs, will be firmly attached to the hair shaft close to the scalp. If a nit appears to be further than ¼ inch from the scalp, it is likely that it has hatched and only the shell remains.
How to check for lice
To begin, seat the child (or, adult!) under a lamp or near a window to make spotting head lice and lice eggs easier; a magnifying glass can also be used. Focus on the nape of the neck and behind the ears, head lice prefer these areas as they are warm and a great place to lay eggs (nits)! For long hair, comb into 2 inch sections and search thoroughly. Be sure to wash any combs or clips to avoid spreading head lice from one person to another.
Head Lice Lifecycle Facts:
- It takes approximately 30-35 days for a louse to complete its life cycle from nit through adult stage.
- A female louse can lay up to 10 eggs (nits) per day. It takes 7-10 days for the nits to hatch.
- The second stage of life is called the nymph stage. It takes 7-10 days before the louse becomes an adult and is sexually mature.
- Head lice will molt three times before reaching their adult form.