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Signs of Head Lice

The most common head lice signs include itching, the feeling that something is moving in the hair, and red bumps or sores (caused by scratching). The appearance of the louse will vary, based on its life cycle stage. For example, head lice that are still in the egg form will often appear as white or clear dots that are firmly attached to the hair shaft near the base of the scalp.

What Are the Signs of Head Lice?

Head lice are blood-sucking insects that are transmitted through direct head-to-head contact or by contact with infested clothing, combs, or bedding.
Common head lice signs can include:
  • Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
  • Frequent itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the insects' saliva or feces.
  • Small red bumps or sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected. Infected sores may become red and tender, ooze, and then may crust over.
  • Irritability.
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.
Head lice can be anywhere on the scalp, but most commonly are seen behind the ears and on the back of the head near the neckline. When looking at the scalp, very few head lice are usually seen. This is because they move rather quickly. However, there are usually many nits (lice eggs) at the base of the scalp. They look like white or clear dots. Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft. This differs from dandruff, which moves easily along the hair shaft.
Head lice are rarely found on the body, eyelids, or eyebrows.

What Do Head Lice Look Like?

The three forms of lice are:
  • The egg (also called a nit)
  • The nymph
  • The adult.
The Nit
Nits are the eggs of head lice. They are very small (about the size of a knot in thread), hard to see, and are often confused for dandruff or hairspray droplets. The adult female louse lays the eggs at the base of the hair shaft nearest the scalp. They are oval and usually yellow to white in color. Nits take about one week to hatch. Eggs that are likely to hatch are usually located within ¼ inch of the scalp. Once hatched, they are white or clear in color.
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About Head Lice

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