Authoritative articles on lice
Got my editor’s hat on today, and had to share this piece of information in an online article posted on Parenting.com which helps readers to understand the symptoms of lice. I sympathize with the person trying to understand nits, if this is what they understand from the article!
Nits. The tiny un-hatched lice eggs are about the size of a pinhead and are tan-colored if they are alive or darker if not (if hatched, their discarded shells are white and more visible). Unhatched, they are usually attached to the hair close to the scalp and are difficult to remove (hence the term nit-picking — more on that later!). Nits, which don’t move, are usually easier than actual lice for a parent to detect.
Sigh…this is the kind of thing which makes me almost want to cry. Outside of the poor writing, which is often redundant and in conflict with itself, some of the information is plain misleading:
- Hatched or unhatched, lice eggs are slightly smaller than a pinhead, not about the size of one.
- Viable eggs are dark; non-viable eggs are slightly less dark, and hatched eggshells are white.
- Eggs are not usually attached to hair, close to the scalp – they are always laid this way.
- And they are not difficult to remove solely because they are laid closer to the scalp. It’s the substance used to attach the egg which does so – so nits, as well as eggs, are hard to remove.
So now let’s look at that, written in a clear, direct way:
Nits. Lice eggs are slightly smaller than the size of a pinhead and can appear to be either dark if viable, tan-colored if they not viable (which indicates the dead nymph is still contained within), or whitish (which indicates the nymph inside has hatched, leaving its discarded shell behind). Due to the whitish color of discarded shells, it is easy to note them against the color of hair. When lice lay their eggs, they do so at the scalp with a special substance that “glues” them to the hair; they are therefore difficult to remove. As the hair continues to grow, eggs and nits grow with it. Nits are usually easier than lice for a parent to detect because they are unmoving, unlike live lice which move quickly to avoid detection.
Which do you prefer?