Nits and Lice
Nits and lice, or head lice, are actually referred to as Pediculosis (or Pediculus humanus capitis). Nits and lice have been around for many centuries scurrying from scalp to scalp and are prevalent right the way through the year – and around the world.
Head lice are highly transferable and an individual is more likely to pick up nits and lice in highly populated areas – hence the “back to school” head lice epidemics. Head lice do not much care whether hair is clean or dirty, however some do say that the head lice can hold onto cleaner hair as it is not so oily – or in the world of nits and lice – slippery.
You can only contract nits through direct human contact. This contact can come from hugs and close play; it is not very likely but is possible to get head lice by sharing hair ties, brushes and caps. Head lice crawl exceptionally fast and have a firm grip on the hair once in contact, the transfer can happen in an instant. Prevention and vigilance is best, check your children’s hair for nits and lice regularly and be mindful to tie long hair into a braid especially when your child is off to school. There are head lice prevention practices and products that can help to defend against infestations such as an everyday lice defence spray to keep those nasty nits and lice at bay.
The initial stage of nits and lice starts from nits or the eggs from which the nymphs hatch. Each nit has a cap-like structure and is firmly attached to the hair shaft. Nymphs appear from fertile nits through this cap after about a week. After these nymphs go through three stages of moulting, they become adult lice. Once a mate is found, the male lice and female lice mate frequently any time of the day.
An extraordinary scenario: As the female louse can lay between 50 to 150 eggs in her lifetime, 60% of these nits are fertile. This means that if you were to have ten pairs of fertile lice successfully reproducing, with each female having a 60% success rate in terms of their nits, it would mean that one female louse can successfully produce 90 nymphs each. Multiply this by ten and you've got nine hundred nits. Using a conservative 75% survival rate for nymphs, you will have 675 adult lice by the end of the moulting period. At which point, these 675 adult lice will pair off. If 45% of these lice are female, and they have successfully mated with a male louse, it means that around 304 female lice will produce 45,600 new nits. This could potentially produce an entire colony which is truly astonishing.
NitWits have developed a helpful head lice fact sheet that details everything you need to know about nits and lice.
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