How do Headlice Breath

Head lice breathe through seven paired spiracles, one on the thorax and six on the abdomen (14 in total). The images above show a lateral view of the abdomen and the abdominal spiracles.

Note the large opening of the thoracic spiracle, and the smaller openings of the first 4 abdominal spiracles.

The spiracles are in the centre of a raised circular structure set off from the body.

The abdominal spiracles have a muscular sphincter used to control the size of the opening.

The spiracles open into a system of tubes called tracheae. Tracheae occur mainly inside the thorax and abdomen. Nit eggs also are fitted with spiracles in the cap of the egg allowing for the young louse to breath in the egg.

Treatments that work as suffocants — blocking the lice's breathing holes can kill lice without the need for any insecticides.

This is why combing out lice and their nit eggs with Nit Ninja Nick-Picker Lotion works so well. 

Headlice when submerged in water create a large air bubble around their body for which they can breath. There is sufficient air trapped against their thorax to allow the insect to breath and remain submerged for up to two hours. 

The ability for the air bubble to form and hold suspended around the louse thorax relies on the natural oil coating on the outside of the louse. This oil coating is dissolved by essential oils and therefore the use of essential oils in our Nit Ninja Daily Defence Shampoo and Daily Defence Conditioner targets this mechanism of defence by the lice. Once this waterproofing oil coating is removed, the louse can simply be suffocated by submerging in water.

This is just one of the many clever ways that Nit Ninja helps keep your kids head a no-go zone for lice!


Nits are the eggs of Headlice and are notoriously challenging to remove.


Lice are Trapeze Artists