One of the first symptoms of a head lice infestation is itching, which can be intense and uncomfortable. These symptoms will usually begin one or two days after the lice infestation begins. However, some people may not notice any symptoms at all. The itchy scalp may become accompanied by rashes or sores, which may be infected with bacteria.
Head lice are small, grayish-white insects that are less than a quarter of an inch long. Their life cycle can last as long as three weeks. They live in the head and feed on blood several times a day. They cannot live in the pubic area, so they are unable to infest pubic hair.
The louse life cycle begins with an egg laid near the scalp. The nymph will feed on human blood and develop for about nine to twelve days. The adult head louse will live for three to four weeks and lay between six and ten eggs per day. The eggs will hatch within seven to ten days. The nymphs will then develop into a sexually mature male or female.
While head lice are highly contagious, it is possible to avoid spreading the infection to others by keeping your head as clean as possible. Regularly wash your clothes, and cover all furniture and other objects with plastic drop cloths to prevent head-to-head contact. You can also prevent your child from getting head lice by keeping their hair in a bun, ponytail, or braided style.