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Head Lice

Along with kids going back to school, comes the increase of cases of head lice.

The following information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).   Visit the AAP Pediatric Education tab on our website for more helpful information about head lice and other pediatric topics.

Each year millions of school-aged children in the United States get head lice. Though head lice may be a nuisance, they don’t cause serious illness or carry any diseases.

What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny insects. They are about the size of a sesame seed (2–3 mm long). Their bodies are usually pale and gray, but color may vary. One “lice” is called a louse.

Head lice feed on tiny amounts of blood from the scalp. They usually survive less than a day if not on a person’s scalp. Lice lay and attach their eggs to hair close to the scalp.

The eggs and their shell casings are called nits. They are oval (about 0.8 × 0.3 mm) and usually yellow to white. Nits are attached with a sticky substance that holds them firmly in place. After the eggs hatch, the empty nits remain attached to the hair shaft.

Head lice live about 28 days. They can multiply quickly, laying up to 10 eggs a day. It only takes about 12 days for newly hatched eggs to reach adulthood. This cycle can repeat itself every 3 weeks if head lice are left untreated.