What Is the Incubation Period for Head Lice?

By Contributing Writer ; Updated July 27, 2017

Head Lice Identification

Head lice is an extremely contagious condition that tends to affect school-aged children. It is transmitted mainly by sharing bedding and hair paraphernalia, including brushes, hair bands and hats. Although they do not jump, lice are capable of crawling onto hair or onto closely hung backpacks and coats. One of the first signs of lice, aside from a very itchy head, are tiny beige crumbs that adhere to hair strands. These are called nits or eggs, and tend to be clustered behind the ears or neck. Nits are very sticky and difficult to remove.

Lice Life Cycle

Lice need human hair and blood to survive; they cannot live on pets, stuffed animals, furniture or carpet. Once a louse is off its human host, it can survive for up to 48 hours. On its human host, a louse can live for 30 days. During this short time, a female has the ability to lay 100 eggs. After 10 days, the eggs hatch, and within 10 more days they turn into grown lice that are capable of laying another 100 eggs. Because of the quick incubation period that head lice has, early and proper treatments are crucial to eliminate the critters.


Chemical and natural treatments can break the lice life cycle. You can use special shampoos that contain pesticides, but check the label for possible side effects. Other shampoos rely on natural ingredients, such as tea tree oil. Homemade solutions include smothering lice in olive oil and mayonnaise, which have the added benefit of making nit removal easier. In addition to hair treatments, comb the hair thoroughly to pick out the nits. Use a lice comb at least twice a day for two weeks to be sure no new eggs have been laid and all the nits are gone.

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