Where Do Head Lice Come From?

Head lice – just the thought of these little parasites is enough to make most people cringe.
Where do these icky little pests come from?
How do they end up living on someone’s head in the first place?
And what can you do to get rid of them?

What are head lice?

Lice are tiny parasitic insects (adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed) that take up residence on a human scalp and feed on blood. Irritation from the bugs’ saliva is what causes your scalp to start itching when you have a lice infestation.
Most of the time, you’ll be able to spot lice eggs (nits) in the hair more easily than the bugs themselves.
Live lice tend to be white, gray, or tan in color and their eggs are oval-shaped and are white, tan, or yellowish.

How do you get head lice?

Contrary to popular belief, head lice infestations are not caused by poor hygiene and they affect people of all walks of life and socio-economic statuses.
Lice are most common in school-aged children, but absolutely anyone who’s hair comes into contact with another person’s affected hair can end up with their own case of lice.

Lice cannot live long at all off of a human head; full-grown lice typically won’t survive more than 24 hours and nymphs, which are baby lice, can only make it for a couple of hours.
However, it is possible for lice to spread via shared hairbrushes, combs, hats, helmets, hair scrunchies, headbands, hats, towels, bed linens, stuffed animals, or even clothing that has recently touched the hair.
Lice can crawl from these objects onto a new head, or directly from head to head if both people are in close enough proximity.

Where do head lice come from?

Head lice cannot survive anywhere in nature other than the human scalp.
So if you’ve contracted lice, you were inevitably exposed to another human with a case of it. Lice only affect humans, which means you cannot get lice from your pets or from wild animals.

Lice cannot jump or fly, so if they’ve made it onto your head, they had to crawl there – either directly from another human’s head, or from another object that recently touched it.

How to treat head lice

Dealing with a case of head lice can be uncomfortable
(an itchy scalp and crawling sensation are common)
and embarrassing, but fortunately, there are several common treatment options to quickly get rid of lice and nits.
Sometimes, a case of lice can be simply handled by a thorough session with a specially-designed lice removal comb.
Often times, a doctor or other health care professional will recommend a combination of combing by hand and using a medicated shampoo. Some particularly stubborn or more severe cases of lice may require multiple treatments with a heavy-duty lice medication.
Always consult a health care professional if you have questions about how to safely treat lice on yourself or your children.

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