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What is the difference between head lice and nits

What is the difference between head lice and nits?

Head lice and nits refer to different stages of the same parasitic insect's life cycle.

What are head lice?

  • Adult head lice are small, wingless insects that live on the scalp and feed on human blood.

  • They are tan to greyish-white in colour and about the size of a sesame seed.

  • Head lice can move quickly through the hair and are often difficult to spot.

  • They are responsible for the itching and discomfort associated with head lice infestations.  It is an allergic reaction to their saliva that causes the itch, but only around 45% of people are allergic. 

What are nits?

  • Nits are the eggs of head lice. Female lice lay eggs on the hair shaft close to the scalp, usually within 1/4 inch.

  • Nits are oval or tear-drop shaped and are typically attached to the hair shaft with a glue-like substance.​

  • Once hatched nits are typically yellow to white in colour and can be easier to spot than adult lice, although sometimes mistaken for dandruff.  

It's important to note that while head lice are the live insects that infest the scalp, nits are the eggs that they lay. The presence of nits is often a key indicator of an active lice infestation.


Removing both live lice and nits is essential to effectively treat and prevent the spread of head lice.

What does a head lice look like

Head lice 

Viable nit egg

Egg (nit) 

what does a hatched nit look like

Hatched egg (nit)

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