What Do Nits Look Like

Jodie Michalak
One nit may indicate an infestation.

If you suspect head lice on yourself or your child, the first question you may find yourself asking is, what do nits look like? Nits are parasites that often find their way off the school bus and into the warmth and safety of our homes. Attaching themselves close to the scalp with tiny little claws, head lice can become a chronic problem if not treated immediately.

All About Nits

If you parent a small child or surround yourself with children, you might at one time or another have to deal with head lice.

Children share close quarters and girls love to brush and braid one another's hair, all while pillow fighting during late night sleepovers. Boys may share hats or have close contact through wrestling or roughhousing. The downside of all this childhood fun is the risk of transmitting a parasite such as head lice.

Lice are the human version of the pet flea. Both are parasites that cling to the body and live off the blood of the victim. Head lice, just like fleas, irritate the skin and cause itching and scratching, as well as other symptoms. Traveling from human to human through contact and the innocent sharing of brushes and combs, head lice quickly multiply and have life cycles very similar to fleas. Once head lice lay their eggs, a new family of lice is born and a breakout occurs.

Contrary to belief, you cannot tell by looking at someone (other than during close scalp examination) that they have nits. There is not one type of person who attracts nits, as they do not pick and choose their victims. At any given time yourself or your child may fall prey to this parasite. Learning the life cycle and asking the question - what do nits look like?- is the first plan of attack to treat your family and your home should an outbreak occur.

What Do Nits Look Like: A Guide

If you suspect nits from obvious scratching or small scabs on the scalp, start searching the head for the following telltale nit descriptions:

  • Nits appear similar in appearance to dandruff, yet nits will cling closely to the hair shaft.
  • Live nits are dark brown in color.
  • Nit shells are lighter in color.
  • Nits resemble the common pet parasite, the flea.

Dealing with nits can be a traumatic and agitating experience. Once nits are confirmed on the scalp, it's time to start treating them. There are several conventional and homeopathic methods available for the permanent removal of lice and nits.

Treating Head Lice

Whether you seek traditional treatments such as Nix shampoo or use mayonnaise, treat head lice immediately to best avoid an infestation or a chronic head lice situation.

It is important that the child, family, and home surroundings are treated as a whole when dealing with lice. Highly contagious, head lice can easily become a household epidemic if prevention measures and treatment are not carried out correctly and effectively. Prior to treating the head lice directly, you'll want to indirectly treat the household.

Make sure you wash in hot water all bedding, clothing, and cloth articles that the person infected has worn, slept on, or used. Next, treat the head louse with your chosen method of cure:

  • Use specialty metal combs designed to remove nits from the hair shaft.
  • Pick and remove nits off the scalp and the hair by hand.
  • Treat scalp and hair shaft with nit removing shampoo, such as Nix.

Consulting a Professional

Although lice can successfully be treated at home with several over the counter products and natural methods, there are times when a medically trained professional should be contacted. Children under the age of two years old should not be treated with medicated shampoo or other chemical scalp products. It is always best to seek the counsel of your physician when treating a lice epidemic in a small child.

Although prompt treatment is crucial in ridding one's self of these pesky little parasites, rest assured that the many effective forms of treatment will, in time, nip those nits for good.

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What Do Nits Look Like