Nit, nymph, and adult lice on hair clippings on a white paper.

What Is the Life Cycle of Lice?

When faced with head lice, it’s normal for parents to wonder what they’re up against. It’s extremely important to understand the basics of the lice life cycle so that you can not only identify lice in your child’s hair, but also understand important keys to successful treatment. Fresh Heads is here to provide an outline of the lice life cycle, and let you in on what you need to know about successfully treating your child.

The Basics of the Lice Life Cycle

Lice can live approximately 40-50 days and their life cycle cycles through 3 phases. These three phases are: nit, nymph, and adult.

• Nits

Nits are the eggs laid by female lice, which hatch 7-10 days after being laid. Nits are just as important to identify as live lice are because even if you identify and kill adult lice, if nits remain they will hatch and “re-infest” your child. Nits have translucent outer casings that house baby louses (called nymphs) inside. They are hard to see and are often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits are round on one side and pointy on the other with a tail-like antenna coming out of the pointy end. They are about the size of a sesame seed and found at the base of the hair shaft near the scalp. Nits will be immovable by a comb and will feel “cemented” onto the hair.

• Nymphs

Nymphs are formed once the louse hatches and are barely visible to the naked eye. Think of nymphs as “baby lice” that have not reached reproductive age. After 12 days, the nymph develops into an adult. This stage of the lice life cycle typically lasts from Day 11 to Day 22, but can last longer (especially in cold weather).

• Adults

Adult lice are the easiest to spot in your child or family member’s hair. Adults can lay 4-10 eggs a day (50-150 eggs in their lifetime), essentially starting another generation of lice and keeping an infestation active. The adult stage of the lice life cycle lasts around 28 days (Day 23 to Day 50).

Why Does the Lice Life Cycle Matter?

Understanding the three phases of the lice life cycle is important for three reasons:

• Identification

If you understand the 3 phases of the lice life cycle, you can better understand what you should be looking for. Most parents mainly concentrate on identifying adult lice, but they don’t realize that identifying nits, for example, are equally (if not more) important. This is because even if you manage to effectively remove adult lice with an OTC lice shampoo, those shampoos are not effective at killing lice eggs. Therefore you’ll need to re-examine your child’s hair for nits or a recurrence (and possibly a full blown infestation) will be inevitable.

• Treatment

It’s important to realize that in order to be effective, a lice treatment needs to not only kill live adult lice, but also their nits. Without killing the nits, lice will never go away, and your child will never get relief.

• Preventing Infestation

Once parents discover that their child has lice, panic often ensues over how to best clean their home in order to prevent an infestation. Worried about other children and family members catching the lice, parents often attempt to bag their children’s toys, stuffed animals, or other household objects. While it is a good idea to launder pillowcases or other “high traffic” items in your home that have come in contact with your child’s head, washing everything is unnecessary. This is because the lice life span is less than 1-2 days once the parasites fall off of a child or household member and are unable to feed. The lice life cycle relies on blood and warmth from a human host in order to support survival. Without the warmth and blood of the human scalp, survival is cut short as nits cannot hatch and usually die within a few days.

Lice Removal Service You Can Count On

Now that you understand more about the lice life cycle, we hope that some of your fears and misconceptions about lice have been removed and put to rest. At Fresh Heads we are committed to safely and quickly removing head lice so your child can return to normal life as quickly as possible. Contact us today at one of our Florida or Georgia locations to learn more about the lice life cycle and discover more about how our services can help you get the lice relief you need!


Schools Without Lice.

Schools Without Lice

The mission at Fresh Heads Lice Removal is to eradicate lice in schools across the country. We’re partnering with the Lice Clinics of America to create a program called Schools Without Lice, that gives teachers and nurses free screenings, resources, and treatments. Together, we’ll have schools without lice!

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