What do they look like? Adult lice are usually reddish brown in color with no wings and are about the size of a sesame seed. Females lay from 50 to 150 eggs that appear as shiny white, yellow, tan or brown dots. Empty eggshells are called nits. (Sometimes the word nit is used for both the egg and the empty shell.) Eggs are about half the size of a pinhead. Individual eggs are glued to hairs close to the scalp and hatch after 5 to 10 days.
What are the symptoms? The first indication of an infestation is itching or scratching, then, there may be small red bumps. Sometimes children will develop some swelling of their lymph glands.
To check for lice, use a bright light and look closely for adult lice and for eggs. Look from different angles since newly laid eggs are almost transparent. Adult lice will move quickly to avoid the light. Eggs and nits will be seen on the hair shaft. They can be distinguished from dandruff because they stick to the hair and are not easily removed.
Are lice contagious? Lice are highly contagious. They spread from person to person in group settings, such as schools, playgrounds, and slumber parties. They don’t fly or jump but they do crawl and they cling to hair shafts. They spread when children, or adults, get their heads together. They also spread from sharing combs, brushes, hats, clothes, even bed linens.
Find out about treatment for head lice.
Lice and Nit Removal Kit