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September is National Head Lice Awareness Month

**Head lice are a medically treated parasite and can not be controlled by a pest control professional.  Contact your physician for treatment recommendations.  This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional or for self-diagnosis. **

As children are heading back to school, parents tend to notice an increase in cases of head lice.  This is likely due to the head-to-head contact that commonly occurs among children as they play at school, at home with friends, and elsewhere (sporting activities, playgrounds and slumber parties).  Head lice are a parasite that feed on the blood of their human host multiple times daily.  There are 3 stages in the life of a head louse: egg/nit, nymph and adult.  Eggs are attached to the hair strand close to the scalp; their minuscule size can make them difficult to see.  Not only does this provide warmth for the developing egg, it provides easy access to a blood meal upon hatching.  Head lice nits are commonly found in the hair around and behind the ears as well as along the neckline at the back of the head, but may be found throughout the hair typically within ¼ inch of the scalp.  Nits hatch in roughly 8-9 days leaving the empty casing behind.  Often confused with dandruff, hair spray droplets or scabs, nits are oval in shape and appear yellow or white in color.

A nymph or immature louse looks like an adult only smaller.  Nymphs mature into adulthood in approximately 9-12 days.  Nymphs can live only a few hours without a blood meal from their human host, therefore, in the event that they fall off or are transferred to personal articles, they are likely to die off before they have the opportunity to transfer onto a new host.  Adult head lice are roughly the size of a sesame seed, have six legs and are tan to grayish-white in color.  The lifespan of an adult on the head of a human is approximately 30 days, but will survive two days or less off of their human host.  Female head lice tend to be larger than males and lay about 6 eggs per day.  Head lice do not jump or fly.  It is estimated that six to twelve million infestations of head lice occur each year in children ages 3-11 years old.  Head lice are not known to spread disease; however, infections from bacteria introduced from scratching the scalp are common.  Transfer of lice on personal items such as brushes, hats, scarves, etc is uncommon, but possible.