Nits are the name given to the eggs of head lice. Nits are laid on the hairs of the host by the adult female and kept close to the scalp so they can be kept warm by the body heat of the host and also so they are close to the food source(blood) when they hatch. An adult lice lives between three weeks and a month and the females lay approximately fifty to one hundred fifty eggs in their lifetime. Each egg takes seven to nine days to hatch.

Nits are usually a white color. They look very similar to dandruff but can not be scratched off easily. Once an egg has hatched it becomes nearly transparent. Head louse eggs are usually the easiest to find on near the backside of the ear and on the neckline. The nits will almost always be attached to the hair within a fourth inch of the scalp. As you would expect, the eggs are very small. Most eggs are only about 0.8 mm across.


Removing head lice eggs, nits, from a host's hair is a process known as nitpicking. Because nits are always cemented to individual hairs they cannot easily be removed by combs. Even commercial lice combs cannot completely remove all of the eggs cemented to the host's hair. Prior to the invention of modern chemical methods people only had two options for removing lice. The two options were to either manually go through each hair on a person's head and carefully pick off every nit, or to shave their hair completely.

Even with the modern chemical methods of killing lice, this can still be necessary because in rare occasions lice can build up a resistance to to the pesticides. If this happens then nitpicking is still necessary, however most people simply choose to shave their child's hair.

Because nitpicking requires meticulous attention to detail it is easy to see why the modern interpretation of this word has developed.

Treatment For Head Lice Eggs

Because nits take seven to nine days to hatch, if a pesticides is used, the treatment must be repeated atleast one more time ten days after the initial treatment. This is because the treatment will only kill the living lice and not the eggs. You therefor need to wait till the eggs hatch and then kill the nymphs before they grow to adulthood and begin to lay more eggs. It takes roughly seven days for a nymph to grow to maturity.

There are several different modern options you can use other than pesticides to kill the lice however. Many of these will still require more than one treatment. There are natural products that can be used such as aniseed, coconut, neem, and tea tree oils. Very few clinical trials have have been performed with these options but still show some promise.

A delousing comb is a special fine toothed comb that can pick out living lice. To use one of these effectively you must wet and comb your hair for ten to fifteen minutes a day for fourteen days in a row. If you plan to use a comb for extended usage it is important to get a metal comb because plastic combs can quickly wear down due to the space between each tooth spreading.

There are also silicon based lotions that are used to suffocate all of the living lice. These treatment methods don't seem to have any effect on the eggs themselves, so this will also have to be used several times.

Treatments that are not generally recommended include, vinegar, gasoline, shaving, and pesticides not intended for killing lice. Shaving of the head is an effective method of controlling a lice infestation but can have severe adverse effects on a child, especially young girls. Many boys have no problem with a shaved head however.