LICE infestation have them? treatment success? prevent the COMB

About the louse itself

The scientific name of the head louse is Pediculus humanus capitis ()
Head lice belong together with the body lice and pubic lice to the sucking lice (order Anoplura).

This is how they look like: Luis
Or to see them moving click HERE

Head lice are elongated grey to grey-brown sometimes black coloured insects with six inwardly curved legs, each ending in a small strong single hook-like claw, and opposing "thumb" for hair grasping.
With this legs, they reach out and snatch a hair a couple of millimetres away. The claws open and the leg whips round to catch any nearby hair. The claws close like a pincer, and the louse holds on tightly. A louse can scurry from hair to hair with surprising speed, though it is unable to move effectively on a smooth surface. So, on a piece of tissue, a louse cannot move far. If it is hot and there is combing too, lice crawl around on the scalp with a top speed from 30 cm per minute. This is a halve cm per second.

The head is narrow. Lice have one pair of eyes. Eyes are present in all species within Pediculidae (the family of which the head louse is a member), but are reduced or absent in most other members of the Anoplura suborder. They have short antennae and the mouthparts are highly modified for piercing and blood-sucking, and retracted into the head when not in use. The body is flattened.

Head lice are not designed to fly or jump!!!!! So lice have no wings and no strong hind legs!!!

Adult lice can become up to 3 à 4 mm long. Males are a little bit smaller, nymphs (baby lice) are much smaller. On first sight they look a bit like mouse shit. Eh …  look HERE.

A just laid louse-egg (nit) is yellowish-white in colour, a bit transparent. Later on a nit with a alive embryo in it looks brownish to black, glances, is oval-shaped and about 0.8 mm in length. Hatched eggs are white. Skin flacks are often mistaken for nits which causes false alarm. The use of a magnifying glass could prevent misdiagnosis.


Let’s start with day 1 on which a egg (nit) is laid and cemented at an angle to the side of a hair shaft.

The eggs take at least 14 days to grow into adult lice. This depends on for instance temperature, moisture, food. In less favourable circumstances it takes up to 22 days.

A louse lays about 4-8 eggs a day. The nicest temperature to lay eggs is 32 ºC. Beneath 10 ºC and above 32ºC it is no fun anymore (). The eggs are attached near the base of the side of a hair shaft, generally within 1 cm of the scalp surface, with a very chemical-resistant waterproof glue. Preferable behind the ears and in the neck, because the embryo in the nit, just like lice, loves nice warm, moist and dark.
Lice feed five to six times a day by piercing the skin and sucking blood. Without food they survive for at most 55 hours.

Time table Life-cycle
After day..... Egg Nymph Nymph grows Adult louse Egg laying louse Lous dies
1 Egg          
7,8   Nymph        
9   Nymph grows      
10   Nymph grows      
11, 12     grows      
13     grows adult    
14-18     grows adult Egg  
19-22       adult Egg  
23         Egg  

lice INFESTATION have them? treatment success? prevent the COMB


Head lice are common everywhere in the world, whether you are rich, poor, clean, smart, stupid, strong, weak, healthy, sick, black, white, yellow, pink, lice simply don’t bother.
The only thing they are interested in is, warm, moist, and dark (under the bangs, behind the ears, in the nape of the neck, everywhere thin skin, well fed with blood is available and a bit rather scaly too, jummie).
Nevertheless it is striking that lice are more common than let’s say 40 year ago. Especially right after the summer holidays it′s party time!!!!
They say that girls with long hair hanging lose, are more often the fall guy and cutting the hair should help. Unfortunately short hair facilitates lice in walking to another head. Of course those lice are more visible.
Head lice can only survive on human. Pets have the wrong blood and the wrong coat!!!! ().

Head lice in Africa have different shaped claws compared to those living in for instance European countries. This has to do with the fact that frizzy hair has a oval-shaped cross section, and strait hair, a round cross section. So does an ‘European louse’ have a hard time in frizzy hair and an ‘African louse’ could forget it in strait hair ().

Lice are mainly transmitted from person to person, and seldom by () caps, hats, scarves, clothes, sheets…. Head-to-head contact is by far the most common route of lice transmission. Lice on clothes and on bedding are mostly weak sick old lice that could not hold on. A real louse would not be such a fool, to just leave a luxury food place.

If lice come into contact with water, for instance during bathing or swimming, they clamp themselves firmly onto the hair shaft and close the spiracles (openings to breath) from their with air filled trachea ().
It has been reported that they have the ability to close down their respiratory airways for up to 30 minutes when immersed in water(......) May be, in rare cases, a single louse can’t hold on anymore, releases the hair shaft, drifts on the water and just lands on another head. A swimming cap could probably be a reassuring idea.

lice infestation have them? treatment success? prevent the COMB

How do you know whether you have lice

Hoofd met luizen


Could be a sign, but very often especially in the beginning there is no itching. Only 1 on 5 people is plagued by itch. Louse’s saliva and feces may sensitize people to their bites, which develops after a couple of weeks. It is even possible that after a few months the body gets used to all these, and the itch disappears mysteriously. The lice will definitely laugh up their sleeve.

In rare cases, the itch scratch cycle can lead to secondary infection with impetigo and pyoderma. Swelling of the local lymph nodes and fever are rare. Head lice are not known to transmit any pathogenic microorganisms. In extreme heavy cases there could be listlessness, paleness, light fever and anaemia too ().

Examine the hair and scalp

Does not give much information. Most of the time there are only 1-10 lice on a scalp. Moreover, lice flee very quickly and disappear (they have special sensors to detect ‘rumbling’). Besides that, dark lice are almost invisible in dark hair. Here is one running away: CLICK

Comb with a louse-comb

Reveals more. Which means go thoroughly through hair sections from the scalp to the end of the hair. Nits are usually found close to the scalp. And sift through the same sections more than once. Inspect for instance from left tot right, and vice versa, and from the front to the back and again vice versa. When wiping the comb onto a white tissue after each stroke, louses are more easy to detect.

When wetting the hair, treating it with a hair detangler spray or other hair conditioner, and combing this wet treaded hair, this not only facilitates combing but also facilitates finding lice and nits. The lice can not move anymore, may be too by these ‘harmles’ so called ‘Inerts’ added to each conditioner ().

Comb the hair carefully from the scalp to the end of the hair!!! Piece by piece, layer by layer. If you stick a piece of gauze on the comb everything will stick on the gauze (the lice too) and this will prevent a lot of fuss.
An other nice hint is to heat up the comb for a short time (by soaking it in hot water). The lice who are usually located on the scalp, will become more active and climb up onto the hair shaft (if the are still capable) ().

Attention: Dandruff is sometimes misdiagnosed as nits.

lice infestation have them? TREATMENT success? voorkomen the COMB

How to get rid of lice

Avoid spread of infestation

If one family member has lice, check all the family members. This means check and not automatic treat!
Warn the school, friends… . When you finally got rid of these lice you don’t want to be infested again by for instance a less fanatic? friend.

To comb or not to comb that’s the question…

If turns out that you have lice, than you will have to comb EVERY DAY, FOR TWO WEEKS very carefully and systematically with a special nit-comb, (says including the British CHC Community Hygiene Concern), in the here already described way. If possible twice a day.
Children with curly/frizzy hair, will need 30 minutes instead of 20.

It is a common believe that not so much combing is needed when you use a official lice killing shampoo, cream rinse, lotion or spray. Unfortunately they all offer more than they usually can deliver. No remedy kills all nits and there will always be lice left that are resistant to these remedies. These of course start to produce more resistant offspring (), () so comb, comb and comb (). Combing with and without a insecticidal remedy (proofed) () has the same result. British scientists even claim that combing is more effective ().

Striking is that all enclosed instructions of Dutch malathion and permethrin containing anti-louse remedies say:

“de natte haren worden gekamd met luizenkam (… .) met een (gewone) crème spoeling erin. Dit is een onmisbaar onderdeel van de behandeling. Dit moet men dagelijks doen tot veertien dagen na de start van de behandeling. (…) minstens dertig slagen nodig, dat kost al gauw meer dan twintig minuten”
(einde quote).

Wet hair is combed with a louse-comb(…) with an ordinary cream rinse in it. This is a obligatory part of the treatment. You will have to perform this up till fourteen days after the start of the treatment. (…) at least thirty strokes are necessary, which takes at least twenty minutes
(end quote)

But if intensive combing is an obligatory part of the treatment and with or without a medicated anti head louse remedy does not make a difference, than why bother using this expensive, unnecessary and potentially harmful pesticides … .
And how come, that people still are seducible to use such in fact, inefficient dangerous methods….

An often read hint but not proven, is to add some vinegar to the water (1 cup vinegar and 4 cups water). This should dehydrate the nits and make them less firm cling to the hair shaft Attention! Never use vinegar right after applying an anti-louse remedy. (it makes the hair and skin less porous and lowers the efficiency).

And of course clean the comb after the job!!!!!

Medicated anti head louse remedies

In the Netherlands the next medicated anti head louse remedies are official registered to treat infestation of head lice . And are available at the pharmacist and chemist.

Survey according the enclosed instructions
Brand Active substance Min. soaking Treat again Instructions anno
Para-Speciaal® (Spray) The pyrethroïds:
bioallethrin and
30 min. After 8-9 days 14-3-2001
Loxazol®(Cream Rinse) Permethrin 10 min.   9 2 2006
Noury® Malathion 12 hours After one week, unless no nits and lice 9-9-2004
Priodermv (Shampoo) Malathion 2x 5 min. After one week, unless no nits and lice 9-12-2005
Prioderm®(Lotion) Malathion 12 hours After one week, unless no nits and lice 19-01-2006

Brand Auxiliary substances
Para-Speciaal® (Spray) Butane, Petroleum oil
Loxazol®(Cream Rinse) stearalkoniumchlorid, cetylalcohol, polyoxyethylene 10 cetylether, hydroxyethylcellulose, hydrolysed proteins, methylhydoxybenzoate, isopropanole 200 mg, Canada balsem, perfume, propylhydroxybenzoate, propyleenglycol, citrate, Sunset yellow (E110)
Noury® ethanol
Prioderm® (Shampoo) Cetostearyl alcohol, lauryldiethanolamid, etoxyled lanolin, methyl-hydroxybenzoate, propyl-hydroxybenzoate, sodiumlaurylsulfate, hydrochloric acid, disodiumfosfate, citrate, disodiummedetate (E110) and perfume
Prioderm® (Lotion) Terpineole, perfume and isopropyl alcohol

Looking at the enclosed instructions some becomes clear. Studying scientific research definitely explains why anti louse remedies are especially for children, very risky. And too why the National Pediculosis Association (NPA) warns so vigorously against them, and promotes combing wherever and whenever they can.

See for general information about official anti head lice remedies: official anti head lice remedies

As obviously the public becomes more discriminating but is reluctant let go their former toys the use of alternative remedies is booming business, what of course is very appealing to money makers. See: Alternative remedies

lice infestation have them? treatment success? SUCCESS? prevent the COMB

Success. Or not… .

If after 14 days you can find any lice or nits, than it is certain that all eggs have hatched, no new ones are laid and all lice are dead. Quite often you still see dead or empty nits. This is OK, they can do no harm.
Do you see alive lice or nits (alive nits are located at less than 1 cm from the scalp) than you have no other choice as to start the whole anti-louse circus again.

Itch, without finding something, could indicate lice, but could also be mental.

If you still find lice than this may be one of the causes:
lice infestation have them? treatment success? PREVENT the COMB

Avoid is better than cure


You’d expect that using repellents is a smart thing preventing infestations of head lice, but the high toxicity of these repellents make them in fact useless (). No one should be treated ‘just in case’. This leads to potential resistance of head lice to these chemicals and shampoos containing insecticides can be toxic and so may cause real health problems. Preventive treatment does not make sense. Shampooing the hair with medicated shampoo to avoid lice, is a waist of energy. The shampoo could irritate, cause itch and you would wrongly suspect a new lice invasion. From:

Plant repellents have hardly been examined. And the effect from working substances, did not last long. Plants, whose essential oils do repel lice are citronella, cedar, verbena, geranium, lavender, pine, cajeputi, cinnamon, , rosemary, basil, thyme, garlic, peppermint, ginger, tea tree oil ().

Tea tree and peppermint proved to be the best. Even better than DEET but still not good enough think Canyon DV et al (2007).
Previously lavender oil was used to protect children against infestations of head lice (). Treating with citronella clearly does have a result but some children had complaints about this remedy ().

For fanatics: see the REPELLENT FACTSHEET about DEET (N,N-diethyltoluamide) in the JOURNAL OF PESTICIDE REFORM/ FALL 2005 • VOL. 25, NO. 3 ( ) Attention: Combining DEET with permethrin, is ask for trouble. See: Permethrin.

So find another solution like:


The most important preventive action is inspecting all family members on a regular base, by visual inspection and by combing. Of course especially when there are a lot of lice about. And take care to treat all infected family members all together at once. New infections from infected objects (hats, caps, scarves, sheets, especially plush cuddle toys, stuffed animals…) are rare ().
Combing for lice and nits isn't just about removing them. It's also about being able to screen and assure yourself that you are free of them. In fact screening (and so early detection for head lice) belongs to the other basic and affordable health measures like tooth brushing and hand washing. Early diagnosis makes treatment easier and reduces the possibility of infesting others.


Clean combs, grooming material and hair accessories, soak them eventually for 30 sec. in water of 60°C. Special disinfectant to kill the lice () is not necessary.

Who is still worried, could also soak other suspicious objects for 30 sec in water of at least 60°C, or wash at, at least 60°C), or feed the dryer (70°C) during 15 min, or steam, or hang outside for 48 hours, or hide for 24 hours in the freezer (-18°C), or forget during one week it’s in a plastic bag … .
Without food lice can survive one day at 37°C, two days at 25°C to 30°C, 7 days at 10°C to 20°C, and 10 days at 6°C!!! ().
They figured this out for healthy lice, under lab conditions. Lice that dropped from the hair are almost all weak, old lice, with little change to survive (). So there is no need to disinfect the car, the furniture, carpets… . One more time vacuuming should do it. An insecticidal treatment of the house and furniture is not necessary (.....)
Fallen out hairs could have nits, who still could hatch after 6 days. But the change that just at this moment a head passes by is probably not big.

Lice capes, lice bags

There is a lot of advertisement about using a lice cape/bag. Lice capes/bags are for sale everywhere. A big plastic bag, to put in the coat, cap, which you can tie up and hang it with the handles on the coat rack is fine too.

lice infestation have them? treatment success? prevent THE COMB

The comb

The right comb is obligatory for the success of the treatment. In Vlaanderen the ideal louse comb is described as follows: The teeth
ideale luizen kam

  • stand between 0.2 en 0.3 mm apart

  • are angular-shaped, which means diamond-shaped of rectangular, to make lice stick between the teeth

  • are strong and a bit flexible

In the Netherlands next combs are available:

  The lice-comb is a plastic comb with on both sides short closely spaced teeth. With this one you can’t remove nits.
Nisska neten kam The Nisska-comb is advised by the RIVM and is a steel comb with long more closely spaced teeth. With this one you can remove nits. The nits are striped from the hair or squashed ().
LiceMeister kam The LiceMeister Comb. has long taper teeth that slides easy through the hair. (). This comb was developed by the National Pediculosis Association (NPA). This non-commercial American organisation promotes fighting lice without using chemical pesticides. She also informs about methods to control and get rid of lice and is doing research. Look at their very informative site: .
  The elektric lous comb should find and destroy lice by a light electrical shock. Despite the nice story, not everybody is as much delighted. If you understand Dutch read this:

Bug Busting Programme

In the UK runs since 1995, a large scaled project: Bug Busting Programme against head lice. They have big publicity campaigns and give extensive information at schools. Above that, families get a Bug Busting kit with 4 different special combs, a 28 pages long manual and a waterproof cape. Also is there a Bug Buster video available. They claim their combs are the best. Including Denmark, Canada, Belgium participated in this project. The Deutschen Pediculosis Gesellschaft very impressed by their approach. It proves that this approach (with among other things combing in the right way) definitely pays off ().
The project is executed by the Community Hygiene Concern (, which is supported by the Department of Health. See for a demonstration HERE.

Role of the school in managing head lice

In Holland each school has its own approach. Schools decide themselves how to manage lice. Sometimes there are lice brigades, lice coordinators, lice inspectors, lice parents, lice groups. But not all parents agree their children to be screened at school.

Sometimes there is a official/modest rule, that when a child is diagnosed with lice or nits, this child will have to be picked up immediately. In the meantime the child is separated. Sometimes children are excluded from school, for several days. There are childcare settings where children are dismissed immediately, when they are identified as having lice. These forms of quarantine can be very upsetting and extremely harsh for these children and it is questionable whether this is sensible from a pedagogic point of view.

Other schools inform the caretakers of the invested child by a letter and tell how to deal with the lice.

Fortunately there are schools too, where open and free with the parents, caretakers, kids is discussed about what anti lice measurements could be taken best. This multidisciplinary approach of shared responsibility is preventing that children who have a hard time, will get it unnecessary tougher. And prevents that children who never have been bullied suddenly don’t belong anymore to the group. This approach is preventing too that children who are more susceptible for catching lice, become victim, in more than one way.



Quite a lot, sometimes very persistent, dispelling, myths about lice themselves and how to get rid of them are circulating.


See: Literature.
See: Internet sources.

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Last update: May 6, 2008
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