The Child With Pediculosis Capitis

Robert J. Yetman, MD


J Pediatr Health Care. 2015;29(1):118-120. 

In This Article

History and Symptoms

  • The life cycle of the head louse is as follows:

    • The female lays the first egg 1 or 2 days after mating and can lay about 10 eggs per day

    • The egg is tightly attached to the hair shaft and close to the scalp

    • Eggs hatch in 7 to 12 days

    • The louse goes through three nymph stages and becomes an adult 9 to 12 days after hatching

    • Females live 3 to 4 weeks as the cycle repeats (Frankowski and Bocchini, 2010, Meinking and Taplin, 2011)

  • Transmission typically occurs by:

    • Head to head contact with an infected person

    • Indirect spread via combs, brushes, hats, or other personal items, although this occurrence is less likely than direct contact

  • Itching as a symptom of infection may take 4 to 6 weeks to begin for the first infection but may develop within 48 hours in someone with a previous infestation

    • Excoriation, crusting, and secondary bacterial infection may result from scratching (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013, Frankowski and Bocchini, 2010, Meinking and Taplin, 2011)