Nits are part of the life cycle of head lice, specifically, the eggs laid by lice insects. Lice tend to infest the scalp, laying eggs among the follicles at the base of individual hairs, where they remain for weeks before hatching. The eggs are tiny, barely visible when nestled into the base of the hairs, and will not shake or fall out, but stick to the hairs themselves. The presence of adult lice in the hair—small insects with front pincers in colors of light browns or tans—will be a sure sign that nits are present as well. And given the inevitability of those nits hatching into more lice, no lice infestation can be eradicated without also ensuring the nits are removed.
The method for manually removing nits is painstaking and tedious, but it may be the only way to ensure the infestation is truly ended. Begin by slathering a thick application of conditioner to dry hair in order to assist in pulling the nit comb through the hair, and preventing the nits from sticking to the hair. Separate the hair into sections, pinning up all but one section at a time so you can focus your search on each area individually. Then work to lift nits off the scalp with the help of a finely toothed metal comb, wiping the comb on a towel soaked in vinegar after every few passes. Have the infected subject lean over a newspaper to catch nits as they are combed out of the hair—or if the weather is warm enough, conduct the operation outdoors. Dispose of the vinegar towel and the newspaper in outdoor garbage, making sure to keep the nits contained to avoid the risk of re-contamination.
The process should be repeated on each section of hair, and then starting at the beginning, repeated again, as many times as it takes before there are absolutely no visible nits remaining. When the combing is finished, wash with a medicated shampoo formulated for lice (AND nits, which are harder to eradicate than the adult lice), making sure to keep the medicated shampoo out of the infested person’s eyes. Follow that up by soaking the hair in white vinegar, then wrapping it in a vinegar-soaked towel for thirty to sixty minutes. Finally, comb out the hair again to remove any remaining (and hopefully dead) nits from the scalp and hair. The entire process of combing and washing will have to be repeated daily, until you have gone for several days without turning up any sign of nits with the combing—often a two-week process. And if that seems excessive, remember that missing any nits will result in having to start all over from scratch. If a shaved head is feasible for the infested person, you may consider that approach rather than enduring this tedious process.
When any member of a family has been infected, the other family members should be carefully checked. Any household items which may have come into contact with the infested person should be destroyed or thoroughly cleaned with white vinegar. These items would include bed sheets and towels, clothing, hats, stuffed toys, and any other item that may have been exposed.