What are Lice

Lice are small insects. They move quickly and are sometimes hard to see. They look like tiny flies that are grey and about 1/16th of an inch long. They lay their eggs at the base of hair shafts. The eggs are called nits, they are a little larger than the mobile lice, are white and are easily felt by feeling the hair. The lice hatch in about 1 week after being laid.



Lice are small insects. Lice infest humans rather than infect them. This is an important distinction, because many parents have misconceptions about how the infestation is caught and cured. An infestation is like having relatives that you donít like come and live with you. Once they are gone, your cured of that infestation, but that does not prevent future visits. While an infection can be permanently cured with an antibiotic and your immune system prevents future occurrences (depending on the type of infection).  Lice can only live on humans. They can only survive for up to 3 days off of humans. They can survive on bed sheets, pillows, stuffed animals, hats, coats, clothes, etc.

 CURE: concepts

Regardless of how we treat lice, there is one central concept you must understand: If you donít get rid of every single nit (egg) and lice, you will not get rid of the infestation no matter what treatment you use. This is where the term ďnit pickingĒ came from. Nit picking is ensuring that you get every last one of the nits out. Most medicines used to treat lice only kill the lice that are crawling around on the head. Some claim to kill the nits, but they are usually not 100% effective. Here are some important concepts to consider:


 Cure: how to do it.

                There are 3 things you must do, kill the lice, get rid of the nits, and prevent re-infestation from the living environment.

  2006 Joe Matusic, MD