What If I Have Nits, But No Lice?

Nits are the eggs that lice lay 1. It is possible to have nits and not see any lice 1. If this is the case, it is imperative that you act quickly to remove all the nits and to prevent further infestation. Although this task may often be difficult and tedious, it is the only way to guarantee a cessation to nits and lice 1. Once you understand life cycle of lice and are able to identify the nits, you can begin proper treatment to end this itchy condition 1.

Life Cycle

Lice feed off of human blood and skin 1. They can survive for up to 30 days on their human host. During that period a female louse (singular of lice) can lay approximately 100 eggs or nits 1. After 10 days, the nits hatch and within 10 more days, a female louse is capable of laying 100 more eggs. Because of this quick life cycle, it's crucial to move quickly and to remove the nits.


Nits are often difficult to identify. A proper head check can quickly let you know if nits are present and how badly you are infested 1. Lice lay their eggs in warm areas, so although nits can be found anywhere on the head, the majority of them will be located behind the ears and above the neck 1. Their appearance can be easy to overlook. They are tiny grayish dots that are the size of crumbs. Nits adhere to individual hair strands and are sticky, which also makes them a problem to remove.

Chemical Treatments

One of the most popular ways to treat lice and to remove nits is with over-the-counter chemical treatments 1. Although these can be effective, many people fear their immediate side effects, as well as their uncertain long-term side effects 2. If you notice any rash, shortness of breath or facial swelling, seek medical attention immediately.

Natural Treatments

There are many natural treatments that are good alternatives to the chemical ones. Essential oils such as tea tree can be found in many shampoos available at health food stores. These shampoos are effective in killing lice and making nit removal easier 1. Other natural treatments include olive oil and/or mayonnaise which, if left in the hair for several hours, can smother any lice and loosen the nits from the hair strands 1.


Proper combing is the key to nit removal and to the termination of head lice 1. Begin by sectioning hair into small pieces. With a lice comb, slowly comb each section of hair 1. After each stroke, dip your comb into a cup of water tapping out anything that has adhered to the comb. If you see any small brown dots floating in the cup, then you are successfully removing the nits.

Combing should not only occur after any treatment but should be done at least twice a day for two weeks to ensure no new nits have been laid. Your goal is to have a clear cup of water after a combing.