Head Lice (cont.)

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What is the prescription drug used to treat head lice?

Lindane shampoo (formally known as Kwell) is a prescription drug and is one of the most common treatments for head lice. When used as directed, the drug is probably safe. Overuse, misuse, or accidentally swallowing Lindane can be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and because of this, only a single application is recommended.

Malathion (Ovide) is another prescription drug that has recently been recommended as a first-line agent for the treatment of head lice. It is a combination drug and is mixed with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and terpineol (a naturally occurring tea tree oil extract), both of which have been shown to have some ability to kill lice. When used as directed, it is considered safe and has been available over the counter for many years in other countries such as the United Kingdom.

Ivermectin (oral medication) has been used to treat helminthic infestations (worms) for many years. A March 2010 New England Journal of Medicine research article compared the use of ivermectin vs. malathion for "difficult-to-treat head lice" and found that a treatment with oral ivermectin resulted in a 7%-10% higher eradication rate over topical malathion. There is evidence that in resistant head lice infestations, oral ivermectin may be better than malathion. (Oral ivermectin is not currently licensed for treating head lice.)

Are any home remedies effective at getting rid of head lice?

Occlusion therapy, nit combing, and hair removal have not been proven to be fully effective in completely eradicating head lice.

Home remedies that have been tried include vinegar, mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, olive oil, butter, rubbing alcohol, and prolonged water submersion. These all fail to eliminate infestation, because these therapies do not kill all of the eggs or lice. This is believed due to the specialized way the parasite "breathes."

Hair removal has never been proven to be effective, but since the louse requires a hair shaft to lay its eggs, it should prevent the lice from multiplying. This is not always considered a desirable option for many children.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/18/2014

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Head Lice - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe your experience with head lice infestation (pediculosis).
Head Lice - Treatments Question: What treatment was effective for your head lice?
Head Lice - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the signs and symptoms experienced with head lice in you or a relative?
Head Lice - Prevention Question: What methods have you used to prevent head lice infestation? What do you tell your children?
Head Lice - Home Remedies Question: Please share effective home remedies for head lice. Who in your household was treated?