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Do Lice Jump or Walk?

One of the most common misconceptions or myths when it comes to head lice is the fact that people think that head lice have the ability to fly, jump or walk from one host to another. And while this common misconception has spread like wildfire maybe thanks in part to old wives’ tales or playground stories, the fact is that many people still believe these rumors to be true.

In order to understand why this is the case we first need to take a look at what head lice are and how their anatomy works, and before you find the response to the long-standing question of “can lice jump from person to person?”  it might benefit you to know a bit more about these nasty little bugs so you can learn how to protect your children and yourself from a head lice infestation that could lead to several missed days of school or work as well as skin and scalp problems and the obvious social stigma that is commonly associated with a head lice infestation.

Characteristics of Head Lice

The common head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) is a parasite, and what this means is that is has a symbiotic relationship with its hosts in which it depends on the host for food, shelter and protection at all times. Without the host lice can only survive temporarily. Bugs can survive for up to 48 hours and nits can survive for up to 10 days off of the host.

One of the main differences we can find between a head louse and a flea is the fact that they have short, stubby legs while fleas have very long legs that can flex in order to create impulse. In fact, if we consider the size of a flea and the distance they can jump, they are by far the highest jumpers in the world.  Another difference is the fact that while fleas can survive off their host for longer periods of time, head lice depend on their host in order to provide all of their needs.

How Do Lice Travel?

Another fact we need to consider when it comes to the anatomy of head lice is the fact that their legs simply cannot harness the power necessary to jump from one host to another. Their stubby legs in fact make it very difficult for them to even walk on flat surfaces and this is the reason why head lice latch on to human hair since it provides the kind of scaffolding necessary for them to firmly grasp and obtain their nutrients from the scalp.

When it comes to the subject of flying, we need to remember that lice do not have any wings so it is physically impossible for them to fly despite the common rumors that typically accompany a head lice infestation. The way head lice move from one host to another is by using their legs to transfer from one strand of hair to another. Head lice can only crawl. And while head lice can really colonize any part of the scalp, they prefer the nape of the neck and the area right behind the ears, due to the fact that these areas tend to receive less sunlight than the rest of the scalp. Once a louse has find a comfortable spot the louse will bite the skin in these areas about four or five times a day to feed on human blood.

The Spread of Lice

Remember that the only way in which a head lice infestation can be spread is through direct contact with another person who is carrying lice. This is perhaps the reason why head lice infestations are so common at schools and day care centers and not so common amongst the adult population. If you have small children at home, it might be a good idea to protect them with our ClearLice lice prevention products,  effective products made from natural compounds that doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals or pesticides.

As you can see, head lice cannot jump or fly from one person to another, in fact, head lice struggle quite a lot walking on flat surfaces. However, it should be noted that head lice are excellent climbers and this is perhaps one of the reasons why it is so easy for them to spread from one person to another after direct contact. Finally, let’s not forget the fact that head lice can survive 48 hours  and nits can survive for up to 10 days off of the head – so any hats, ornaments, brushes, pillow coverings and towels that might have been used by a person dealing with a head lice problem need to be sanitized in order to avoid spreading these stubborn little bugs.


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