Nits and lice: how to recognize and eliminate them

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Nits and lice

I lice they are small grayish-white parasites that live only on humans and suck their blood. They are small in size (1 to 3 millimeters) and lay the nits, which are their eggs, attaching them to the hair shaft or hair, on which they move easily thanks to the hooks placed on the legs. They cause a called infestation pediculosis, which is transmitted by direct contact with people already infested or through the exchange of clothing or personal effects, such as pillows, hats, scarves or combs.

The most affected by pediculosis are children preschool and school age (3-11 years) and their families, because they have more opportunities for close contacts. Girls are more affected than boys, probably due to long hair.

Let's see what are the symptoms, treatments and hygiene rules to be observed to avoidinfestation with lice and related nits.


10 myths about head lice

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Not even these nasty parasites are saved from fake news: false beliefs about the conditions that favor or hinder them and about their real danger. Let's debunk the most ...

In this article

  • The species of lice 
  • Nits and lice: where they are found 
  • Nits and lice: their appearance 
  • Lice Infestation Symptoms 
  • Nits and lice: how to prevent infestation 
  • Removal of nits and lice 
Read also: Head lice in children: the guide

The species of lice

There are three different species of lice:

  • those of the head (Pediculus capitis)
  • those of the body (Pediculus humanus)
  • those of the pubis (Phthirus pubis)

The first type, the head louse, is by far the most widespread, similar to that of the body which is rather rare. The pubic louse, on the other hand, has a more flattened shape than the two species (hence the common name "crab"). All three types of head lice are harmful, but one species in particular, that of the body, can represent a serious health problem as it carries serious epidemic diseases such as:

  • exanthematous typhus
  • relapsing fever
  • trench fever

Head lice photos: how to recognize them

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Lice are small insects that infest the scalp of adults but especially of children and seem resistant to any attempt to prevent their arrival. How...

Nits and lice: where they are found

  • Head lice tend to deposit nits mainly in the hair at the nape of the neck and temples, often behind the ears
  • The nits of body and pubic lice can be found in the seams of the underwear
  • Beard, eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic and armpit hair can also harbor parasite nits
Read also: Head lice and pediculosis: 6 things to know

Nits and lice: their appearance

How are nits recognized?

Le nits they appear as very small ovoid elements of white-yellow or greyish color. They have a size of 0,3 x 0,8 mm and adhere perfectly to the hair shaft or hair, a short distance from the skin. 

Is there a difference between hatched and non-hatched nits?

In particular, the still full eggs are gray-yellow in color; those already hatched, on the other hand, are white-transparent and are located more distally.

Are the nits visible with the naked eye?

Clusters of nits can also be seen with the naked eye, but observation with a lens or a dermatoscope is recommended.

Nits or dandruff?

Unlike the nits, dandruff is composed of skin scales that come off with great ease by shaking the hair. The two conditions should therefore not be confused, since dandruff can also be associated with itchy scalp.

Lice Infestation Symptoms

Infestation manifests itself with

  • irritation
  • and intense itching

in the area affected by the infection, which often causes scratching lesions. The abrasions caused by scratching can become infected and give rise to complications (eg impetigo).

The eggs of all lice they mature and hatch in 7 days. Over the course of a month, the various species can lay 80 to 300 eggs on the host.


Head lice: treatment

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They infest the heads of children and seem resistant to any attempt to prevent their unwelcome arrival: they are head lice, now ubiquitous in schools and communities as kindergartens ...

Nits and lice: how to prevent infestation

Prevention of pediculosis consists in observing correct hygiene practices, suggesting to avoid sharing

  • combs,
  • brushes,
  • hair,
  • scarves
  • and clothing.

Personal hygiene therefore prevents and fights thelice infestation. The ideal conditions for lice transmission are created when, in a generally overcrowded community, you live in close contact. The head louse spreads easily within a family unit, especially if it is large, or in infant communities among children. It is therefore a good idea to check children often.

Accidental transmission of lice can also occur in many other ways, for example in public places or particularly crowded means of transport, but also indirectly through cushions, upholstery of chairs and armchairs, mattresses, blankets, towels, clothes, brushes, combs and toilet seats in public bathrooms. However, remember that lice do not live outside their habitat: the main transmission mechanism remains direct contact.

There are products on the market that are defined as "pediculosis preventives": in reality there are no repellent products capable of preventing the louse from infesting a person. It is therefore useless to use these products before the infestation.

Read also: Head lice, the 6 practical tips to remove nits

Removal of nits and lice

completely eliminate lice infestation, is critical the removal of nits from hair, body and clothes

So it is advisable:

  • Washing clothes at high temperatures (at least 60 ° C for 20 minutes, enough to kill both the insect and its eggs)
  • Wash the sheets and any soft toys or fabric toys in the same way
  • Shave the beard, underarm hair and pubic hair 
  • Purchase specific pesticide products in the pharmacy, in the form of shampoos, gels or lotions
  • Comb the hair several times with a fine-toothed comb, preferably wet with vinegar or specific pesticide products
  • The mechanical intervention with the comb is very important: it is an operation that requires time and patience, which should preferably be carried out in daylight, near a window and repeated for several days.
  • To avoid re-infestation, it is important that all members of the family check each other frequently.
  • After use, soak the brushes and combs used to remove nits and lice in boiling water.

Sources for this article:

Epicenter; CDC

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Read also: Head lice: the products on the market

Questions and answers

Head lice: how to recognize the problem?  

If you notice that your child scratches his head frequently it means that something is wrong: check his head and if you notice small whitish dots on the nape and behind the ears, you have found the nits, the eggs of the louse.

When to check if my child has head lice?  

Once a week it is a good idea to check your children's hair. 

How do you know if the nits are dead?  

The dead nits:

  • they are whiter and drier
  • they are mainly found more than 1 cm from the scalp

How do you know if the nits are alive?

Live nits:

  • they are grayish white, translucent eggs
  • they are located approximately less than 1 cm from the scalp
Read also: Head lice, a guide to eliminate them

  • lice children
  • nits
  • 3-5 children years
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