How Long Can Nits Live on Bedding?

Four kids in a bright bedroom are having a pillow fight.

Itching, scratching, and a dreaded diagnosis! You’ve probably encountered a head lice infestation if you have school-aged children at home. Head lice are tiny parasites that infest the scalp and hair of humans, causing itching and discomfort. Their eggs, also known as nits, attach at the base of hair follicles, close to the scalp, and eventually hatch into lice. These tiny eggs can also drop off and be found on bedding and other surfaces, leading to an infestation.

This article will explore how long nits can live without a host, their lifespan, how they spread, and the best way to prevent an infestation.

How Long Do Nits Survive?

Nits are head lice eggs and are laid by adult female lice. The eggs are typically found close to the scalp and are attached to the hair shaft. Nits take about 7-10 days to hatch; once hatched, the empty egg casings remain attached to the hair shaft. 

The lifespan of nits depends on the temperature and humidity of their environment. In ideal conditions, nits can survive up to 10 days, but they typically only live for a few days off the scalp. Nits laid on bedding or other surfaces are unlikely to hatch, as they require the warmth of the scalp to develop.

How Are Nits Spread?

Nits are spread through direct contact with an infected person, usually through head-to-head contact. They can also be spread by sharing hats, combs, and other hair accessories. Nits cannot jump or fly, so they cannot spread through the air. 

The most common way to contract head lice is through contact with an infected person. Nits can live on bedding and other surfaces for a short period, but they are unlikely to hatch and are not likely to lead to an infestation. This is why lice are so common among children who participate in close group activities or share items at school.

How to Identify a Head Lice Infestation

The first step to managing a head lice infestation is to identify it. You may suspect head lice if you or your child are experiencing an itchy scalp, ears, or shoulders. Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect a head lice infestation:

  1. Itching: Itching on the scalp and behind the ears is one of the first and more common symptoms of a head lice infestation. Lice bite and feed on blood from the scalp, causing itchy, red inflammation at the site.
  2. Visible lice: Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and crawl through the hair. You may notice these tiny brown or grayish-white parasites at the base of hair strands or on the scalp.
  3. Nits: Nits are tiny, yellow or white, oval-shaped dots attached to the hair shaft. At first, you may confuse them with dandruff. Comb through the hair; dandruff will move, whereas nits will stay connected to the hand strands.
  4. Red bumps: Upon further investigation, you may notice red bumps or sores on the scalp. These are caused by itching the bites.
  5. Discomfort and trouble sleeping: If you notice sleepless nights or irritability, it could be because lice are most active at nighttime. 

Checking for Lice

If you suspect a head lice infestation, you should check all family members and close contacts for signs of lice or nits. You can do this at home by using a fine-toothed lice comb to slowly separate and comb through the hair, working from the scalp outwards. Use a magnifying glass and light to zoom in on the scalp. This will help you identify tiny lice and nits caught in the teeth of the comb.

How to Prevent an Infestation

If you or your child has been infested with head lice, it’s essential to treat the infestation quickly and adequately to prevent it from spreading to others. Over-the-counter sprays and shampoos like Licefreee Spray are great options for easy treatment of a lice outbreak. Once you have applied the treatment as directed, you should thoroughly vacuum and clean your clothes and bedding to catch any nits or lice that may have fallen. 

A shampoo like Licefreee Everyday Shampoo can help control an infestation and prevent a re-infestation of lice in the days after using the head lice treatment. We recommend washing the hair with the shampoo, then using a lice or nit comb to comb out any remaining eggs that may still be attached to the hair shafts. 

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, medical evidence not accepted. Not evaluated by the FDA.
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