Table of Contents
- Head lice facts
- What are head lice?
- How common is head lice infestation?
- Who is at risk for getting head lice?
- How in the world does a child get head lice?
- Does getting an infection with head lice mean that the person has poor hygiene?
- What do head lice look like? What is the life cycle of head lice?
- Where are head lice most commonly found?
- Head lice vs. dandruff
- What are the signs and symptoms of head lice infestation?
- How is a head lice infestation diagnosed?
- Does a black light help to diagnose lice infections?
- What is the treatment for a head lice infestation (pediculosis)?
- What is the treatment for a head lice infestation (pediculosis)? (Continued)
- My child has head lice. I don't. Should I treat myself to prevent being infested?
- Should my pets be treated for head lice?
- My child is under 2 years of age and has been diagnosed with head lice. Can I treat my child with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs?
- What OTC medications are available to treat head lice?
- What prescription drugs treat head lice?
- Are any home remedies effective at getting rid of head lice?
- Which head lice medicine is best for me?
- What are the rules with head lice medicines?
- Is it possible to prevent head lice?
- Should household sprays be used to kill adult lice?
- Should I have a pest-control company spray my house to get rid of lice?
- What is the prognosis of a head lice infestation?
Quick GuideLice & Nits: How to Get Rid of Head Lice
What OTC medications are available to treat head lice?
Many head lice medicines are available at drugstores. Each OTC product usually contains one of the following active ingredients:
- Pyrethrins (often combined with piperonyl butoxide, in brand name products: A-200, Pronto, R&C, RID, Triple X): Pyrethrins are natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Though safe and effective, pyrethrins are not ovicidal (egg-killing) and can only kill crawling lice, not unhatched nits. It is applied to dry hair and allowed to remain for 10 minutes but no longer. After 10 minutes, the hair should be brought to a lather with warm water and then rinsed clear. Finally, towel dry (no hair dryer). A second treatment is recommended in seven to 10 days to kill any newly hatched lice. Treatment failures are common due to, in part, the development of resistance. They should not be used in people allergic to chrysanthemum or ragweed. Pyrethrins are approved for use on individuals 2 years of age or older.
- Permethrins 1% (NIX): Permethrins are similar to natural pyrethrins. Permethrins were introduced in 1986 and are safe and effective and may continue to kill newly hatched eggs for several days after treatment. The person should first wash their hair using a shampoo without a conditioner and towel dry the hair until it is still damp but not soaking wet. Apply the NIX to the damp hair and scalp. Make sure to get behind the ears and neck. Leave NIX in hair for 10 minutes but no longer. Rinse hair completely and towel dry. A second treatment may be needed in seven to 10 days to kill any newly hatched lice. Treatment failures are common, but NIX can be used on children as young as 2 months of age.
- Dimethicones (LiceMD, silicone oils, Hedrin, NYDA): Dimethicones are a type of silicone oil. These products are believed to work by coating surfaces and acting as a physical barrier that asphyxiates the louse. Unfortunately, there has been very limited research on their effectiveness. Nevertheless, some limited studies have shown moderately good rates of killing the lice. These dimethicones are biologically inert and are considered non-toxic in humans.
- Other agents: There are a number of other agents that have been used to treat lice. Some agents mix coconut oil and tea tree oil with permethrins or pyrethrins. It is not clear if these agents work alone or only in combination with other pediculocides. Other home remedies include using olive oil, mayonnaise, and even vinegar. However, there are no studies proving their efficacy.
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Pediculosis Capitis (Head Lice)." Red Book, 30th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2015.
Chosidow, O. "Oral Ivermectin Versus Malathion Lotion for Difficult-to-Treat Head Lice." New England Journal of Medicine 362 Mar. 2010: 896-905.
Devore, C.D., G. Schutze, J. Okamoto, M. Allison, R. Ancona, E. Attisha, and M. Minier. "Head lice." Pediatrics 135.5 (2015): e1355-e1365.
Feldmeier, H. "Treatment of pediculosis capitis: a critical appraisal of the current literature." American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 15.5 (2014): 401-412.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Head Lice." Dec. 28, 2016. <https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/>.
4."Male human head louse" by Gilles San Martin
6."Bugbuster" by Thanks for the polite permission of the Community Hygiene Concern, Joanna Ibarra