Life Cycle of Nits

Head Lice, Kutus, or Nits

The scourge of many a parent and school kid.  They are a complete pain to deal with and, it can seem like it's a never ending cycle. Hopefully this post will help you deal with the next infestation you come across.

First some background.

Most commonly the affect young children, because of the way they interact, and then spread to other members of the family. However Head Lice can spread wherever groups of people work, play, or live together. They are not a sign of poor personal hygiene.

What are they?
Head lice are insects, and anyone can catch them. They're not know to spread or cause other diseases (unlike rat fleas that spread The Plague, or mosquitoes that spread Dengue Fever & Malaria in the tropics). Head Lice are small about 2 or 3 mm long (the one in the video is a monster at about 5mm).  They feed on blood, and usually take 5 or 6 feeds per day and live exclusively on the head of humans, and they breed all year round.

The hang on tight to the shafts of hair, and scurry around close to the scalp.  If you find a Kutu away from the scalp then it's probably sick, or injured and probably won't be able to lay eggs.

Here's some things they can't do!

  • They don't Jump!
  • They can't Fly!
  • They can't Swim! Although they can hang on in water and survive when you go for a swim or have a shower or bath.


How do they spread?
Because they can't jump, or fly they spread by close contact between heads.  There is no proof that they can be caught from sharing hair brushes or combs either.

What to look for....

Itchy &Scratchy!   Especially around the back of the head and neck.  Look for scratch marks or a rash.  Although when my kids were young they didn't complain about having an itchy scalp until they were completely crawling with them.  ewww!

White Specs   Eggs are usually found stuck to the individual hairs close to the scalp.   Eggs more than a finger width away from the scalp will mostly likely be dead, or already hatched.

Runners!    Depending on how long the infestation has been around the lice themselves can be difficult to see.  Their colour varies with hair colour and how recently they have fed.

Hide and seek!

Combing wet hair  with a  over a peice of white paper or towel can be used to find live runners (lice) , you can also dump conditioner in the hair and comb it through to find runners too.  When you do this it's important to make sure you to check all the hair.  Doing it in small sections at a time is the best way.  I prefer using conditioner as it stuns the lice for about 20 minutes so gives you a better chance to find them, and it makes it easier to get the hair through the comb this is called wet combing.  Remember to wipe the comb after each pass through the hair to check and see if you've got anything, and make sure you don't put them back in the hair!

Kill, Kill, Kill!
The are a number of products available from the traditional pesticide based products like Parasidose, to the essential oils based products like Moov and Nitenz

Each product has it's own specific set of instructions, so which ever you choose read them before you start, or ask one of our Pharmacists for advice.

Important things to do!
* It is really important to comb *AFTER* using the shampoo, with a fine tooth comb to remove any rogue lice that didn't get killed by the treatment.

* Check the hair 24 hours to 2 days *AFTER* treatment, again using the wet combing method.

* Check the hair 7 days *AFTER* treatment, and retreat.

The second treatment is really important so that you can catch any recently hatched lice, or one that got missed in the first treatment before the start laying eggs.

A final word
If you don't turn up any live lice in the first comb through (wet combing) don't treat.   Wet comb again in 2 days and see if any turn up.

Basically don't shoot until you see runners!

If you have any questions at all feel free to call us on 06-358-7788 or call in to CookStPharmacy.


Cook Street Pharmacy Shop

We’re a small family run Pharmacy in Palmerston North. We pride ourselves on looking after our patients and customers needs. If you need health and well being advice for yourself, or your family feel free to drop in and talk to one of our staff.