Head Lice | Treatment


How can I treat head lice?

Head lice can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription products. Over-the-counter shampoos and lotions containing pyrethrin (one brand name: Rid) or permethrin (brand name: Nix) are commonly used to treat head lice. Shampoos and lotions that kill head lice contain pesticides and other chemicals, so it is important to talk to your doctor before using these products, especially if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have allergies or asthma. It is also not safe to use products with pesticides on or near your eyes. If you find head lice or nits in eyelashes or brows, talk to your doctor.

If over-the-counter products are not effective, your doctor can prescribe a cream, lotion or shampoo to treat your head lice. Certain prescription products are also safer for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The products that kill head lice don't usually kill all nits. To reduce the risk of another lice infestation, pick the remaining lice and nits by hand or by using a special comb (one brand name: LiceMeister comb) to remove them. Comb through all of the hair one section at a time every 3 days or more often, for at least 2 weeks or until you stop seeing head lice and nits.

You should also use hot water to wash any bed linens, towels and clothing recently worn by the person who had head lice. Vacuum anything that can't be washed such as the couch, carpets, your child's car seat and any stuffed animals. Because head lice don't live very long away from the scalp, you don't need to use lice spray on these items.


Pediculosis and Scabies by DC Flinders, M.D., and P De Schweinitz, M.D. (American Family Physician January 15, 2004, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20040115/341.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 10/05