There are several prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies available to treat head lice and their eggs.
How do head lice spread?
Head lice can’t jump or fly; they can only crawl. Lice usually directly transfer from the hair of one person to another. Hence, head lice infestation may not always be a sign of poor personal hygiene or an unclean environment. Pets, such as dogs and cats, usually don't play a role in spreading head lice. Some possible ways of transmission include:
- Direct and close contact with another person that has head lice
- Sharing hats and scarves
- Brushes and combs
- Hair accessories
- Sharing pillows, towels, and clothing
Before using any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, the hair should be thoroughly washed with shampoo, without a conditioner. Rinsing the hair with white vinegar prior to treatment may help dissolve the glue that holds the eggs to hair shafts. OTC medications include the following:
- Permethrin: Permethrin is a synthetically produced chemical similar to pyrethrin obtained from chrysanthemum flowers that can kill lice but not the eggs, and treatment needs to be repeated 9-10 days after the first application. Side effects may include redness and itching of the scalp.
- Pyrethrin with additives: Pyrethrin is a naturally occurring compound that is isolated from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrin is combined with other chemicals to enhance its effectiveness. This product only kills lice, and it should be reapplied 9-10 days after the first treatment. Side effects may include itching and redness of the scalp. Pyrethrin shouldn't be used if your child is allergic to chrysanthemum or ragweed.
Prescription medication is usually used when over-the-counter (OTC) treatments fail.
- Ivermectin is a medication that kills lice and can be used in anyone over six months of age. It is usually applied once to dry hair and then rinsed off with water after 10 minutes. Ivermectin can also be taken orally.
- Malathion is a lotion that can be used in those older than six years. It is applied to the scalp and rinsed off with water after 8-12 hours. The treatment may be repeated seven to nine days after the first treatment.
- Spinosad can kill lice and eggs. It is usually applied only once to dry hair and rinsed off with warm water after 10 minutes.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Alternative lifestyle and home remedies can be used alongside medical treatment to help get rid of lice faster. Home remedies alone may not be effective because there is no scientific proof of their effectiveness, and one may consult with a doctor before following them.
- Wet combing: Combing the entire hair from the scalp to tips when it is wet using a fine-toothed comb can remove lice and some eggs. Using a lubricant like olive oil or coconut oil while combing the hair makes the lice come out easily. This can be repeated every three to four days for a few weeks until there are no more lice found.
- Essential oils: Certain essential oils such as tea tree oil or ylang-ylang oil may kill lice by suffocating them.
- Smothering agents: There are several common home products that may kill lice by depriving them of air and smothering them. These products include petroleum jelly (Vaseline), olive oil, butter, or mayonnaise. Any of these products may be applied to the scalp and hair, covered with a shower cap, and left on overnight.
- Dehydration: Applying hot air with a special machine operated by a professional can cause dehydration, possibly killing the eggs and lice.
- Household cleaning: Lice usually can’t live more than a day without feeding off a human scalp, and the eggs can’t survive if they aren't incubated at the temperature in the scalp. Despite this, as a precaution, it is advised to clean items affected by a person with life infestation who has used them in the previous two days. Cleaning recommendations include:
- Washing clothing, soft toys, and bedding in hot soapy water at a temperature of 130°F (54.4°C) at least, and they should be dried at high heat.
- Cleaning hair care items such as hair combs, brushes, or hair accessories by soaking them in hot soap water for at least 10 minutes.
- Safely sealing items that cannot be washed in plastic bags for at least two weeks.
- Vacuuming the floor and furniture can help get rid of lice.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Do You Get Rid of Lice Quickly? Related Articles
Bedbugs vs. LiceBedbugs are small blood-sucking parasites that feed on mammals and birds. Some people do not have any symptoms of bedbug bites while others have them they include pain and reddish-colored skin lesions where the bite is. Bedbugs are found in temperate and tropical climates worldwide. Bedbugs usually feed every five to 10 days. Bedbug bites usually do not need treatment. Bedbug infestations are difficult to get rid of. Bedbugs are a problem worldwide, are resurging. There are three types of lice, head, body, and pubic. Head lice is a grey-white animal about the size of a sesame seed and can be mistaken for dandruff. Head lice are transmitted from the body to other household items. They produce between seven to 10 eggs (nits) annually. Head lice is transferred from head-to-head contact. Body lice are slightly bigger than head lice and look like head lice. Body lice is transferred from human to other household items. Pubic lice or "crabs" is distinctly different from the head and body louse. Pubic lice in adults is transferred by direct sexual contact. Children and others get pubic lice via nonsexual transmission from their parents, relatives, and friends who share clothing. Lice bites are bluish in color sore that develop on different areas of the body. Condoms do not prevent from getting pubic lice. The different types of lice have different treatment. Lice can be eradicated from your home.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
Crabs (Pubic Lice) PictureParasitic insects found in the genital area of humans. See a picture of Crabs (Pubic Lice) and learn more about the health topic.
Do Lice Like Dandruff?Head lice are parasites that are easy to differentiate from dandruff. And no, they do not like dandruff; they love your blood and so, they feed on it. They do not flourish if the dandruff is co-existing on the scalp.
Head LiceHead lice infection is called pediculosis. Lice are parasites that feed on blood and can be found on the scalp and hair of infected people. Signs and symptoms of head lice infestation include a tickling sensation, itching, and sores on the head. Head lice may be eliminated with various over-the-counter shampoos and washing all clothing and bed linens in the hot water cycle. Combs and brushes should be disinfected, and the floor and furniture should be vacuumed.
Head Lice Causes, Symptoms, and TreatmentsLice (singular: louse) are tiny insects (known as parasites) that are most commonly found on the head (scalp). Hence, they are also referred to as ‘head lice’. The other sites where lice can be seen are behind the ears and on the back of the neck.
Head Lice SlideshowLearn how to get rid of head lice. Lice attach themselves to the scalp and feed off of human blood. Discover head lice symptoms and learn what head lice look like for effective head lice treatment.
Head Lice vs. DandruffDandruff is a condition that causes dry flakes on the scalp. Lice are parasites. Head lice infestations are very contagious. Both head lice and dandruff have similar signs and symptoms: scalp itching and tiny white material on the hair shafts. Lice treatment involves the application of over-the-counter shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrethrin followed by nit and louse removal with a fine-toothed comb. Dandruff treatment incorporates the use of anti-dandruff shampoo.
How Do You Get Rid of Lice Fast?Learn what medical treatments can help with lice and speed up your lice recovery.
How Do You Know If You Have Crabs?Crabs is a common issue that affects many people. Learn the signs of crabs, what causes crabs, how doctors diagnose crabs, and what you can do to treat crabs.
ivermectin topicalIvermectin topical is a medication used to treat head lice infestation, and inflammatory lesions caused by a skin condition known as rosacea. Ivermectin topical is available as a cream to apply on rosacea lesions and as a lotion for application on the scalp and hair for head lice. Common side effects of ivermectin topical include skin burning sensation, skin irritation, dry skin (xeroderma), dandruff, eye irritation, red eye (ocular hyperemia), inflammation of conjunctiva (conjunctivitis), and skin inflammation.
Lice vs Dandruff: How Will You Tell the Difference?Lice and dandruff are two things that have been confused with each other for a long time. However, they are very different. They have different causes, risk factors, appearance, location and treatment.
Lice vs. FleasLice and fleas are small wingless insects. Lice are parasites that can crawl and infest the human skin and scalp. Although they can bite people, fleas are parasites that mainly feed on non-human hosts and can jump from one host to another. Lice infestations and fleabites are treatable and typically do not cause long-term problems with proper treatments for home, people, and pets.
malathionMalathion is a synthetic phosphorous compound (organophosphate) approved for topical use to kill head lice and also used off-label for pubic lice infestation that is resistant to other treatments. Do not use malathion on newborns or infants younger than 2 years old. Common side effects of malathion include skin and scalp irritation, stinging of skin, chemical burns (including second-degree burns), contact allergic sensitization, inflammation of the outer eye membrane (conjunctivitis) from accidental contact with the eyes.
Natroba (spinosad)Natroba (spinosad) is a prescription medicine used to treat the symptoms of head lice. Natroba may be used alone or with other medications. Serious side effects of Natroba include hives, rash, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat; and severe dizziness.
permethrinPermethrin is a topical medication used to treat scabies and head lice infestations, available over the counter and by prescription. Do not apply permethrin to infants younger than 2 months old. Common side effects of permethrin include local discomfort (scalp), rash on the scalp, itching (pruritus), localized burning or numbness, localized swelling (edema), tingling of the skin, stinging of the skin, and redness of the skin (erythema). Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.