Need to know where your lice are coming from?
Well, the answer may surprise you...
Lice are a strange pest.
One day, you and your family don't have them. The next, you're all scratching at your heads.
Surprisingly, they don't actually appear out of nowhere, but they're not like other pests.
Below is some useful information to help you identify what puts you at risk from a lice infestation and how you can prevent them.
What Are Lice?
When people think of lice, they're actually thinking of the most common variant in the United States: Head lice.
Head lice are parasitic insects which need to feed on the blood of humans to survive. They do this by roosting (yes we said roosting) on people's scalps with specially designed hooks on their feet which cling to strands of hair.
There are 6,000,000-12,000,000 outbreaks in the United States per year, so there is a pretty good chance you'll be running into these little suckers at least once in your lifetime.
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What Do Lice Look Like?
Lice live in three life stages: nits, nymphs, and adults.
The nits are the small eggs which are no larger than a knot in a strand of hair. The nymphs are slightly smaller than the adults, and the adults are tan or grey or white. An adult louse is comparable to a sesame seed and the females are slightly larger than the males. You might not be able to see them on your head unless you detect the movement, and even then you need to concentrate. Lice have six legs and segmented bodies.
How Long Do Lice Live?
Although they are a nuisance, lice do not live very long. Each adult louse lives for roughly one month, or 30 days, on a person's head.
The main problem is that they reproduce quickly. A single female louse can lay six eggs a day, which means two lice (one male and one female) can create 180 nuisances feeding on your head.
On the bright side, lice cannot live away from a human scalp. If a louse is plucked from your head or falls out, it will die within 1-2 days. This is why it's helpful to use a nit comb to remove them.
Lice cannot fly or jump; they move by crawling. This means that, if you remove them, they cannot find their way back to your head without direct contact.
Do Lice Spread Disease?
The good news is that the common head louse does not spread any known diseases.
Their main side effects are irritation and some light bleeding from the bites. Many shampoos and lice treatments include soothing ingredients to help combat the irritability.
If you have body lice, which are the lice that appear on other parts of the body, including the pubic region, then you might have a problem.
Body lice can spread several infectious diseases and pose a problem for you and your families. Body lice are not as common in the United States, but can spread damaging diseases like epidemic typhus, relapsing fever, and trench fever. If you have body lice, you should seek treatment immediately.
So How Do Lice Spread?
Lice seem to affect everyone and ARE NOT a sign of uncleanliness.
Lice often spread in public places where humans gather around one another. Indeed, some of the most common places you might pick up an infestation are schools, work, stores, and mass transit areas like subways stations.
Basically, if the lice can get to your hair, then you can develop an infestation.
Although they are common, there are actually only two major ways to spread lice.
This is the simplest and most frequent way to get lice.
Lice cannot fly or jump, so they move when people bring their heads close to one another or come in contact with each other's hair.
Hair is the crucial factor, because it is what lice live on. This is part of why lice infestations are found more often on females rather than males. Some of the most commonplace incidents which cause a lice transference are:
- Children playing together
- Hugging a friend or relative
- Having someone braid your hair
Contact With Infested Materials
Despite some misconceptions, it's hard to get lice from touching another person's clothes or possessions.
This kind of contact needs to happen almost immediately for lice to spread because each louse only survives for 1-2 days without a human host. Some of the ways to accidentally pick up lice from indirect contact are:
- Sharing hats, scarves, or items of clothing
- Sleeping in the same bed
- Sitting or laying on furniture that an infested person recently left
Again, it's very unlikely that you'll actually spread lice by putting someone else's hat on or sharing a helmet.
But Where Do Lice Come From?
Now that you know how to identify lice and realize that they are very good at spreading from person to person, you're probably asking "Where do they come from in the first place?".
Where do they live when they aren't on people?
The Hard Truth About Lice
The short answer is: Lice come from other people.
Lice are parasitic and cannot live for long without a host. It's almost impossible to pick one up without touching another person's hair.
Lice have survived for centuries by living on people and then transferring to others.
The burial objects of Ancient Egypt even include lice combs to be carried into the next life.
At the end of the day, lice don't come from another dimension: They come from other humans.
How To Prevent Lice
If you want to stop a lice outbreak before it begins, you have several options.
Unfortunately, there is no single solution that will absolutely stop any outbreak. But if you are worried, and especially if you have children who interact with others, you can use one of the following methods.
- Use a daily lice repelling shampoo which uses mint or rosemary extracts.
- Keep your hair away from the hair of others.
- Regularly wash your clothes and sheets.
- Make sure that anyone who comes into your home does not have lice.
Make sure to check out our detailed guide on getting rid of head lice if you want to learn more about ways to kill these pests.
The Final Word
Ultimately, lice come from other people.
They pose no serious risk to your or loved ones, but can be a nuisance and cause scalp irritation. The only way to truly prevent an infestation is to avoid other people, but that would be an awkward and unpleasant way to live.
If you are worried, use a regular lice repelling shampoo and take regular precautions to stop lice before they stop you.