The lice is a small wingless insect with a flattened body. Light brown to grayish white in colour, it measures 2 to 4 mm long. Its head has short antennae and very specialized mouthparts, of the sucking stinging type. The part that goes under the skin consists of three retractable stylets, which remain inside the insect’s head when it is not feeding. Its compound eyes are small or absent. The thorax carries three pairs of short legs equipped with a clamp which closes on the hair to grip it firmly. The abdomen is wider than the rest of the body and has no obvious appendages.
DO NOT WAIT
WE RESPOND TO
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ON THE LICE
ALL ABOUT THE LICES
How does the first louse arrive?
The arrival of the first louse may seem mysterious, but it usually occurs through direct contact with an already-infested person. Here are some explanations:
- Direct contact: Lice move from head to head during close contact. This can happen when children are playing, hugging or even taking a picture together. Lice cannot jump or fly, so they crawl from one host to another.
- Sharing personal items: Although less common, lice can also be spread through sharing personal items such as hairbrushes, headphones, hats, scarves or pillows. If a person with lice uses these items, the lice or nits (lice eggs) can remain on the item and be passed on to the next person who uses the item.
- Common places: Places like schools, daycares, recreation centers, or even movie theatres are environments that are conducive to the spread of lice, mainly because of the proximity between people.
It is important to note that lice infestation has nothing to do with a lack of hygiene. Lice are attracted to human blood, not dirt. In addition, they prefer clean hair because they can cling to it more easily. Therefore, anyone, regardless of age or hygiene level, can get lice.
How do you know if it’s a louse?
To know if you are dealing with a louse, you must first know some characteristics of these small parasites. Here’s how you can identify them:
- Appearance: Lice are very small, about the size of a sesame seed (2 to 3 mm long). They have a colour that varies from white-gray to brown. Lice have a flattened body with six legs with claws that allow them to cling firmly to the hair.
- Movement: Lice move quickly and avoid light. They are therefore difficult to spot. When inspecting the hair, it may move quickly to the opposite side of the head to avoid detection.
- Eggs (nits): Lice eggs, called nits, are often easier to spot than the lice themselves. They are small (about 0.8 mm long) and white or yellowish in colour. Nits are often confused with dandruff, but unlike dandruff, they are stuck to the hair and do not fall out easily when you shake your head.
- Location: Head lice are usually found on the scalp, behind the ears and near the neck. However, they can be found anywhere on the head.
- Itching: The presence of lice is often revealed by itching of the scalp. It is an allergic reaction to the saliva of the louse when it bites for food. However, it is important to note that the itching may not appear immediately, sometimes it can take several weeks after the initial infestation.
If you think you have detected lice or nits, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or pharmacist to confirm the diagnosis and advise you on the appropriate treatment.
How to get rid of head lice?
Getting rid of head lice may require several steps. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed:
- Pest control treatments: There are many over-the-counter and prescription products that can kill lice and their eggs (nits). These products can be in the form of shampoos, creams or lotions to be applied to the hair and scalp. It is important to carefully follow the instructions on the product packaging.
- Fine comb: A fine-toothed comb can be used to remove lice and nits after applying the exterminator treatment. These combs have closely spaced teeth that can catch and remove lice and nits from the hair.
- Washing of personal items: Clothing, bedding, towels, and hairbrushes that have been in contact with the infested person should be washed in hot water (at least 50°C) and dried in a dryer on high heat. Items that cannot be washed can be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks, which should be enough to kill the lice.
- Vacuum: Thoroughly vacuum all carpets, upholstery, car seats or other fabrics that the infested person may have come in contact with.
- Preventing the spread: Avoid sharing combs, hairbrushes, headphones, hats and other personal items to prevent the spread of lice to other family members or friends.
- Regular monitoring: Check the hair of all family members regularly for signs of lice, especially if there is an alert at school or in the community.
- Consult a health care professional: If lice persist despite home treatment, consult a health care professional for further advice.
Remember, head lice are a nuisance, but they do not transmit disease. It is therefore important to remain calm and treat the infestation systematically and thoroughly.
How to prevent head lice from coming back?
To prevent the return of head lice, here are some steps you can take:
- Regular checking: It is important to check your family members’ hair regularly for lice or nits (lice eggs), especially if you know there is an outbreak in your school or community.
- Avoid sharing personal items: Lice can be spread by sharing hats, combs, hairbrushes, headphones, scarves, headbands, etc. Encourage your family not to share these items.
- Proper cleaning: Clothing, bedding and personal items used by the infested person should be thoroughly cleaned to remove lice or nits. Wash these items in hot water (at least 50°C) and tumble dry on high heat. Items that cannot be washed can be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.
- Education: Educate your family and community about what lice are, how they are spread and how to prevent their spread.
- Consult a health care professional if necessary: If you find that lice continue to infest despite your efforts, consult a health care professional for further advice.
Remember, head lice are a nuisance, but they are not a sign of poor hygiene or disease. They can infest anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status.
Why opt for a head lice exterminator?
There are several reasons why you might choose to hire a professional exterminator to eliminate a lice infestation:
- Expertise: A professional exterminator has the experience and knowledge to effectively treat a lice infestation. They are trained to recognize the signs of an infestation and know what steps to take to eliminate it.
- Effectiveness: Over-the-counter lice treatment products are not always effective, especially if the lice have developed resistance to certain pesticides. An exterminator can use more effective and innovative treatment methods.
- Saves time: Treating a lice infestation can be a long and laborious process, especially if you have to do it repeatedly. An exterminator can get the job done quickly and efficiently, allowing you to spend your time on other things.
- Safety: The use of pesticides to treat a lice infestation can pose health risks, especially if not done properly. An exterminator knows how to use these products safely.
- Preventing reinfestations: An exterminator can give you advice on how to prevent a future lice infestation.
It is important to note that the use of an exterminator should be a carefully considered decision, taking into account the cost, the extent of the infestation, the effectiveness of previous treatments and individual preferences. In addition, lice extermination is generally considered for infested objects and places, not directly on people. For individual treatments, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional.
|2 to 4 mm
|Greyish to brown
|20 to 30 days
MORE INFORMATION ON LICE
LIFE CYCLE OF LICE
Because they live on the heads of humans, whose temperature is almost constant, these lice multiply throughout the year. They can mate several times during their adult life, and young males are particularly sexually active. The egg-laying takes place mainly at night. The female sticks each of her eggs at the base of a hair, very close to the scalp. It produces a secretion on which it deposits the egg to fix it to the hair. When it dries, this substance forms a very resistant cementum. The oval-shaped egg is called a nit. The coloration of the nit varies from yellow to brown when it contains a live louse; it is whitish if the egg is empty. A female lays about four to eight nits per day. Its lifetime production is estimated at between 50 and 300 eggs.
If left undisturbed, 90% of the eggs hatch after seven to eleven days. The louse is an insect with incomplete metamorphosis, or hemimetabole, the larva resembles the adult in smaller size. She takes her first blood meal as soon as she comes out of the egg. The larva undergoes three moults before reaching the adult stage, 8 to 14 days after hatching. Under very good conditions, a louse can go from egg to adult in only 17 or 18 days. The life span of the adult insect varies from ten days to a few weeks. The entire cycle of the insect takes place on the head of a human, usually the same person.
As its name suggests, this louse lives mainly on the heads of humans. It is most often seen around the ears and near the neck. It also sometimes settles in the beard, mustache, eyebrows and eyelashes, and more rarely in other hairy areas of the body.
The head louse is a hematophagous insect: it feeds exclusively on blood. It can take several blood meals a day. To do this, it attaches itself to its host, pierces the skin and then sucks blood through hollow tubes. A single louse could bite its host up to seven times a day. Its flattened body swells like a wineskin when the insect feeds.
LICE CONTROL METHODS
The infestation of the hair by head lice has the scientific name of pediculosis. Medically, it is not considered a disease but rather a nuisance. However, it is important to treat the affected person as soon as the presence of these parasites is detected. The infestation usually manifests itself by itching, especially around the ears and the back of the neck, by the presence of nits (eggs) in the hair and by traces of lice excrement (red or black spots) on clothing, shoulders or back.
When lice are suspected, the hair should be examined for nits, which are easier to see than the lice themselves. Work in good light and use a fine-tooth comb if necessary. Separate the hair by strands and systematically examine the entire scalp. A nit looks like a film but it is not easily removed: it does not move if you blow on it or if you shake the hair. When you find nits, you have lice. It is then important to break the life cycle of the insect because it multiplies very quickly. In addition to treating the person with the disease, the entire family and loved ones should be examined promptly. Infestations are more common in children, but adults can also get lice.
Beware! If one member of the family has lice, there is no point in treating the others as a preventative measure. The anti-lice products on the market are insecticides: they kill the insects already present but cannot prevent the arrival of lice.
The most common way to get rid of head lice is to apply a specially formulated shampoo, lotion or cream. Infested children should not return to school until they have started treatment. Most schools have policies to this effect and, in general, the presence of nits is accepted when an initial treatment has taken place. Ask your pharmacist for advice on purchasing a pediculicide product. Follow the manufacturer’s or pharmacist’s directions to the letter, absolutely avoiding overdosing or repeating the treatment more often than recommended. These products are toxic to insects AND to humans. They should be kept out of reach of children.
Tell the pharmacist for whom the product is intended, especially if it is for a baby, a pregnant or nursing woman, a person allergic to ragweed (hay fever), someone with skin problems or someone who is ill.
Protect the face of the person to be treated with a towel and wear plastic or rubber gloves when applying the product. Do the treatment over the sink, rather than in the bath or shower, to avoid contact with the rest of the body, then rinse thoroughly.
Apply a second treatment of the same product after seven to ten days. This step is essential to kill lice that were still in the egg stage when the first treatment was done.
Sometimes lice are resistant to certain products. Be sure to check for live insects 48 hours after the first treatment. If so, repeat with another product, and treat a second time with the same product seven to ten days later.
Remove nits after treatments, with your fingernails or with a fine comb designed for this purpose. To make it easier, wet the hair with a damp towel or a solution of two equal parts water and white vinegar, heated. If the hair is long, you can do this operation in several sessions. Removing the nits makes it easier to detect a new infestation.
Although lice rarely leave their host’s head, they do sometimes wander away from their food source and end up on various objects. Therefore, it is recommended that clothing and bedding be washed in hot water or dry cleaned. In this case, tell the cleaner that the items are infested with lice and bring them in a plastic bag. You can also put them in the dryer for 30 minutes on the highest setting. Contaminated items can be placed in a plastic bag or quarantined (not touched!) for two weeks. At the end of this period, the insects will be dead.
PREVENTION AGAINST LICE
There are several ways to deal with head lice infestations. Knowing the biology and behaviours of this insect makes it easier to develop ways to avoid it. Education of youth (and adults) in this regard is therefore highly recommended. Here are some tips to prevent the transmission of lice:
- Avoid lending or borrowing items that may have lice on them (towels, hats, brushes, hair clips, etc.).
- Put your toque and scarf in the pocket or sleeve of your coat.
- At school and daycare, make sure children’s belongings are stored in separate lockers, or in closed boxes or bags.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Wear a bathing cap in public pools.
If in doubt, check children’s hair for lice and nits. If you find bugs, immediately notify the school, daycare, friends, and any group or organization where the infestation may be spreading (sports team, swim club, Cub Scouts, etc.). All infested children should be treated at the same time.
Following close contact with an infested person, human lice may, in rare cases, temporarily settle on pets (such as dogs, cats, ferrets or rabbits). Insects cannot survive on these animals but it is possible that they use them to change host. Therefore, contact should be avoided and in particular not sleeping with these animals during treatment.
Ready to get rid of invasive lice? Contact our experts today!