Lice are wingless insects belonging to one of the 3,000 over species of Phthiraptera of which three of them are classified as human disease agents. They are the head lice, body lice and the pubic lice. The singular for lice is louse.
Most lice are scavengers, feeding on skin and other debris found on the host’s body. Some species of lice feed on blood and sebaceous secretions. Other mammals and birds have their own lice infecting them.
Head lice inhabit the scalp while body lice and pubic lice inhabit the body and pubic area respectively. Lice generally cannot survive for a long period of time if they are removed from their host.
Lice are about the size of a sesame seeds. They are tan to grayish white in color. Adult lice may live up to 30 days on its host. Female lice lay between 100 to 200 eggs during their lifespan which in average will be about 6-8 nits in 2 days.
Lice’s eggs are called nits. Most lice attach their eggs to their host’s hair with their saliva based glue and when bonded to the hair, they are very difficult to sever without specialized products. Lice are exopterygotes being born as miniature version of the adult lice, known as nymphs. The young lice molt three times before they finally reach the adult form in about 10 days.
Lice are known to transmit microbial diseases or helminth parasites. Lice infestations can be controlled and get rid off by using a lice comb and treating them with a special formulated enzyme. Lice shampoo can also be used but not advisable because it may contain harmful toxic chemicals.
Sometimes people can mistaken nits for dandruff. Dandruff is larger and white in color and can easily flicked off but nits will firmly attached to the hair close to the scalp. Lice cause intense itchiness to the scalp and with heavy scratching, you may end with an infection along with the lice infestation.