Pediculus humanus claw.

Louse egg (nit).

Q. Who can have head lice?

A. Anyone.  However, is most common amongst school age children.

Q. Is it common to have head lice?

A. Yes, it is the second most common occurrence next to the common cold.  According to Toronto public health, 6-12 million are effected by head lice each year.

Q. How long does a louse live for?

A. The live span of a louse is between 30 and 37 days.

Pediculus & Feces (Faeces). Courtesy of Dr. Gaetano Scanni.

Q. What are head lice?

A. Head lice are small, brown wingless insects ranging from 1mm to 4mm found on the human scalp.

Q. What do head lice look like?

A. The figure shows two head lice the one on the left is a female (torso is more curvey/rounded) the louse on the right is a female (torso is straight).  The female head louse is normally larger than the male. 

The above images are courtesy of the National Pediculosis Association Inc., Rick Speare and others

Human head louse.

Q. How do I clean my environment?


  • Lice cannot live off of the head for more than 3 days – if any items have not been used for longer than   that, you are good to go!
  • Place linens, pillow cases, towels, hats etc. In dryer on high heat between 20 mins to half an hour under high heat. Material furniture can be vacuumed, leather furniture can be wiped items can also be isolated for 3 days maximum.
  • Just remember, lice prefer their natural environment, your head, they cannot live anywhere else other   than your head.  Off the head, they die very quickly.  No need to go overboard with the cleaning. However, moms, being the primary caregiver, if you feel like cleaning from top to bottom, go right   ahead as you are in-charge and if you are not happy, no one will be!

Q. What colour is a louse?

A. The colour of a louse ranges from tan/carmel to red (immediately after blood meal) to brown/black (after blood meal and as they age). 

Q. What are nits?

A. Nits are the eggs that the lice lay.  

We at lice shack are happy to help with any questions you may have. 

We understand your fears and urgency in wanting to remove head lice and their nits. 

Contact us to schedule an appointment at 905 997 5423 or on-line.

Q. How do I know that I have nits?

A. Nits are ‘glued’ to strands of the hair.  You can mistake dandruff for nits/eggs.  However, a quick way to tell, is if you try flicking a nit off your hair, unlike dandruff, it will not move.  You will have to physically remove the nit with your thumb nail and the pad of your index finger.

The above images are courtesy of the National Pediculosis Association Inc., Rick Speare and others

Adult female & adult male.

​Q. What does a louse eat to live?

A. A louse does not eat but drinks the blood from the scalp.

Q. How long can a louse live off the head?

A. Without blood meal from the scalp, head lice cannot survive off the head for more than 72 hours.  Most head lice will die within 24 hours and a tiny percentage might live up to 48 hours and the minuscule remaining percentage could last as long as 72 hours.

Q. Can head lice spread disease?

A. Although the itching might send you crazy, head lice is not known to spread disease in North America or Europe.

Q. Did I get head lice because I am dirty?

A. No.  Having head lice is not a sign of uncleanliness or bad hygiene.  In fact, head lice prefer clean heads as the head lice can lay their eggs/nits without a barrier between the nits and hair strand.

Lateral view of Pediculus humanus.

Q. Are nit and egg the same?

A. Yes.  Nit is another name for egg.

Q. What do nits look like?

A. They look like miniscule tadpoles.

Tarsal claw of the head louse.

​Q. Can my pet get head lice?

A. No.  Pets cannot have head lice as they have fleas.  Head lice only live on the human heads.

Q. How do I know I have lice?

A. You may experience itchiness of the scalp caused by a movement of the lice on your head and/or allergic reaction to the excrement of the lice.  Intense scratching can lead to your nails puncturing your scalp and causing painful sores on the scalp.  Head lice and their eggs can be found all over the head in a serious infestation.  However, check the ‘hot spots’ which include around the ears, at the nape of the neck and at the crown of the head.  Although head lice lay their eggs closer to the scalp, it is important to examine the entire strand. Be careful not to confuse hair debris, dandruff or hair casts or dec plugs with an egg.  If it is white in colour and flakes away, it is not an egg.  An effective examination of the head for head lice is best done in a well-lit area or where there is natural sunlight and any magnification tools necessary. 

Nits compared in size to the head of a pin.

Louse hatching from egg.

Q. What is the colour of nits/eggs?

A. Viable eggs are usually an opaque bluish/grey colour when newly laid and turn into a caramel or brown colour as the casing/shell hardens.  After the nits are hatched, the casings or dead eggs may look clear or almost see through and after a while greyish white.

Human head louse close-up.

Q. Do head lice fly, hop or jump?

A. No.  They do not hop or jump.  They only crawl.

Q. What is the difference between lice and louse?

A. Lice is the plural for louse.

Head louse. 

Nit attached to hairshaft.

Whole body view of Pediculus humanus.

The above images are courtesy courtesy of William B. Swain.

Nymph (newborn louse) & adult louse. 

Nit casings on a hairshaft.


Mississauga (905) 997-5423

Hamilton (905) 963-1526

Dorsal and lateral views of Pediculus humanus.

Lice of different sizes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dorsal and ventral views of Pediculus humans. 

Q. How do I prevent head lice?

A. You cannot prevent head lice as they are part of our ecosystem.  However, the best preventative    maintenance is by checking the head regularly and/or combing. Avoid head to head contact. Keep long hair in a braid, ponytail or bun; do oil soaks.

Telling family and friends if you or your child has head lice and nits.  Given the stigma of old, we   understand it can be embarrassing or difficult to share but it is a one of the ways to ensure that head   lice do not spread and if anyone is affected, they can take action early in the process to avoid heavy   infestation and further spreading. When having or going to sleep overs, take your own pillows, blankets, combs, brushes, hair ties and   etc.  And do not share.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Be honest and up front about head lice.  Most of us have had at   one time or the other.  If you have never gotten head lice before and this is your first time, someone you were close with probably gave you head lice.

 You could have gotten head lice from the movie theatre or by taking selfies with your friends or your   locker buddy or trying hats at the hat store or from the hairdresser/barber. 

 Q. How many eggs can a female louse lay in a day and its

A. Between 3 and 7 eggs per day and approximately 100 plus nits in its lifetime.

Q. What is the incubation period of the nits?

A. Nits take 7-10 days to hatch.

Q. How long does it take a nymph to grow into an adult louse?

A. It takes 7-10 days for a nymph, baby louse, to reach maturity.  At which time it would then mate and the female louse will start laying eggs within 2 days of mating.

Q. How can head lice spread?  

A. Human head lice can be spread through head to head contact, shared clothing or products such as combs, brushes, hair ties, hats, caps and etc.

Q. How do I remove head lice and their nits?

A. Manual head lice and their nits removal is the most effective technique, as the majority of the over-the- counter remedies do not remove the nits and in some cases not all the lice either.  Using the right comb is the only guaranteed solution. Even then, it is important to follow the schedule comb out process.  Using the right comb is crucial in effective removal – metal comb available for $20.00

Q. What kills lice and their nits and what products to use?

A. Most of the over-the-counter remedies are not as effective as they used to be as the lice have built an  immunity to the pesticides in the remedies.  As each of us are individuals, our bodies make-up is unique, therefore while some remedies may work on a few of us, some of us might have adverse side effects or the remedies might not work at all. Therefore the age old manual removal is the most sure- proof way of getting rid of head lice.

Essential oils are all great deterrents for lice but do not guarantee death of lice/eradication of nits.  As well, essential oils should be used with care as they very potent and if not used with care, may cause  side effects and can dry up your scalp as some are antiseptics, drying agent.  Various shampoos can be purchased and they may help, however, they are often filled with chemicals, can damage the hair and scalp and may be unsafe for children.

Remember, lice and their nits did not happen overnight so it is important that you accept that they will not be gone in a day, you will be required to follow a process to ensure safe and proper removal.