It is a common misconception that head lice are caused by the cleanliness of the home and personal hygiene. Anyone can become infected with the insect. The insects cannot jump or fly from person to person. The insects are transferred by having contact with the head of an infected person. The sharing of clothing, such as hats, scarves, hoodies and jackets, between infected people can also spread the insects.
Head lice do not infect dogs, cats and other pets. The insects cannot survive off of the human head and die quickly without feeding. The insects will feed on blood from the human scalp by biting into the skin and sucking blood out of the wound. The female louse can lay several eggs each day. The female lays the eggs at the base of the hair follicle closest to the scalp. This provides for a warm incubation of the eggs. Eggs are called nits and hatch in a few weeks. The nits cannot survive without the warmth of the scalp and will die quickly once removed.
Killing the live insects will not eliminate the possibility of re-infestations. It is equally important to remove the nits from the scalp when applying treatment for head lice. A plastic disposable comb with teeth that are close together will help remove the nits from the scalp. The comb should be wiped off between brushes through the hair so that nits are not re-deposited back into the scalp.
Any clothing worn while infected should be laundered in warm or hot water with detergent. Bedding such as pillow cases, sheets and comforters should be washed daily until the lice and nits are eliminated. Lice cannot survive without the host so there is no need to treat the entire house.
An itchy scalp is a common symptom of head lice. Other things to watch for are small scabs on the scalp, small bugs falling out of the hair and either small dark or clear colored pieces that often are mistaken for dirt. These small colored pieces are the nit eggs. The dark ones still have not hatched whereas the clear ones are hatched nits.