It isn't a great picture, but can you spot the nit?
Remember, nits are the eggs of lice.
Nits are small, oval shaped and usually a yellowish-white color and are firmly attached to the side of hair shafts. Simply having nits does not necessarily mean that your child has live lice though, since some nits may be empty egg casings and some may have dead, non-infective lice embryos inside.
Nits that are close to your child's scalp are the ones that are most likely to be infective and are the ones that are thought to hatch into live lice, a process that takes 7 to 12 days. Continuing to get new nits, even after you have removed nits from your child's hair, is also likely a sign that your child has live lice on her hair and needs a lice treatment.
Since a live louse will typically lay up to 10 eggs a day, if your child only has a few nits, then she likely doesn't have an active lice infestation.
Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics is against no-nit policies that exclude children from school because they have lice. In fact, the AAP now states that 'No healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice.' This is likely a big surprise to all of the parents who have had their kids sent home from school because of head lice.
To add to the confusion about head lice, some people only use the term nits to refer to empty egg casings and lice eggs when talking about viable lice eggs. Others use the term nits to refer to both viable lice eggs and empty egg casings.
American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Head Lice. PEDIATRICS Vol. 126 No. 2 August 2010, pp. 392-403.