Lice Treatment

Head lice, pediculus humanus capitis, are essentially parasites that infest our scalp. Head lice are small, wingless insects that live, breed and feed on the human scalp. Since they are wingless creatures, head lice cannot fly or jump from head to head. People get head lice from direct head-to-head contact while playing, cuddling or working closely together. Lice infestations are also known as pediculosis. Although lice infestations are a common occurrence, is the problem is more commonly found in children.

Lice Treatment Picture

Lice Treatment: For effective removal of head lice, lice treatment is recommended for people diagnosed with an active infestation. Immediate action is required as lice can be transmitted effortlessly from one person to another. Anyone who comes in close contact with someone with a lice infestation is at risk of picking up head lice. Contamination of personal items like infested combs, brushes, towels and clothing could also spread head lice. Lying on the same bed or couch or using a pillow that belongs to an affected person may result in lice infestation.

Symptoms of Lice

Lice are highly contagious and spread from one person to another quickly in group settings. The signs and symptoms of head lice include:

  • A tickling feeling caused by the movement of something on the head
  • Itching at the hairline and on the nape of the neck
  • Young children express irritability as they cannot express their discomfort
  • Presence of nits and lice
  • Sores on the scalp
  • Infection due to sores on the scalp
  • An itchy scalp, but not all itchy scalps are indicative of lice

Head lice infestation can be diagnosed by taking a closer look at the hair and scalp of the affected person. It may be hard to find lice even if you look for them as they tend to scurry away from prying fingers. However, nits (lice eggs) can be found in clusters close to the scalp confirming a lice infestation. The itching and irritation one experiences is in reaction to the saliva of lice, and scratching the scalp will only worsen the problem as it could result in raw, broken skin and sores. This increases the risk of complications as there is a higher possibility of secondary infection to the site of bruising and lesions. which may further lead to an infection.

Causes of Lice

As mentioned earlier, an infestation of the parasite pediculus humanus capitis causes what we commonly refer to as a head lice problem. An individual is at risk of contracting head lice if there is

  • Head to head contact with an infected person
  • Sharing of clothing or articles used by an infected person
  • Use of the same bed, couch or pillow of an infected person

Lice are also common in cases where proper personal hygiene is not maintained.

Remedies for Lice

Head lice are widespread among school-aged kids, and it is important to act immediately to control the spreading of lice. There are two ways in which you can tackle head lice: treatment can be administered through the use of commercially available medicated shampoos and hair products or you can use home and natural remedies to treat lice.

Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatment involves the use of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. Chemical treatment for lice destroys the lice and the nits. It may however take a few days before the itching stops. Oral medication also helps to kill resistant lice. OTC medications that are approved by FDA for lice treatment contain one of the following active ingredients:

  • Pyrethrins combined with piperonyl butoxide
  • Permethrin lotion 1%

Further, the FDA approves the following medications for lice treatment, albeit they are obtainable only by prescription.

  • Malathion lotion 0.5%
  • Benzly alcohol Lotion 5%
  • Lindane shampoo 1%

It is best to consult a dermatologist before buying any medication for treatment, especially when using them on younger children. Some of the chemicals used for the treatment may be harsh and cause damage to the scalp and hair.

Apart from medication, here’s what else you need to do to ensure that the lice do not return.

  • All clothing and personal items used by the affected person should be washed with hot water and disinfectant before treatment.
  • Beds, linen, carpets, and furniture should be vacuumed.
  • Instructions on any medicated product like the shampoos should be followed carefully, as the products that are used for lice treatment are insecticides.
  • Never use more than the stipulated quantity; frequent usage may result in more harm.
  • Avoid using any shampoo or conditon prior to your use of the medication.Prior to using the After lice treatment, it is not advisable to rewash the hair for 1 to 2 days.
  • Avoid using different head lice drugs at the same time, unless instructed to do so by your physician.

Natural Remedies for Lice Treatment

Natural remedies are preferred over chemical treatment when the infected person is too young to receive strong medications. Some of the popular natural remedies to get rid of lice include:

  • Using head lice combs after washing the hair to physically take out all the lice and nits
  • Using herbal remedies such as tea tree oil, which is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties

There is no natural treatment that kills lice eggs (nits) completely. Hence, removal of lice and nits is an important part of the lice treatment procedure. Using a lice and nits removal shampoo followed by lice combs to pull lice and nits off wet hair helps to get rid of head lice.

Diet for Lice Treatment

No specific diet can alter or affect lice. However, a healthy diet consisting of high fiber foods, a balanced intake of all food groups, and drinking adequate water (six to eight glasses a day) helps to keep the scalp and body hydrated and healthy. Foods rich in vitamin C help to treat lesions and red bumps that may be caused as a result of lice infestation because of scratching.

Suggestions for Lice Treatment

There is no approved pediculicide that is completely ovicidal, hence retreatment of head lice is usually recommended. One has to undergo retreatment after all eggs have hatched, but before new eggs are produced.

As per the statement of The American Academy of Pediatrics, treatment for head lice should be initiated only when there is a clear diagnosis of head lice as all treatments have some potential side effects. So, one should consult their health care provider, school nurse, or dermatologist if unsure about a head lice infestation.

Head lice treatments may not be suitable for pregnant women, breast feeding women, and babies less than 12 months old. People having allergies, open wounds on the scalp, and people suffering from asthma should consult their physician before undergoing head lice treatment. Maintaining personal hygiene is the best way to prevent a lice infestation.


  1. A. Araújo, L.F. Ferreira, N. Guidon, N. Maues da Serra Freire, K.J. Reinhard, K. Dittmar, Ten Thousand Years of Head Lice Infection, Parasitology Today, Volume 16, Issue 7, 1 July 2000, Page 269, ISSN 0169-4758, 10.1016/S0169-4758(00)01694-X.

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34 Lice Treatment remedies suggested by our users
suggested by meghan on Friday, June 13, 2008

My daughter had head lice really bad and I mean bad.. Her hair is thick and heavy. I have tried every thing on her finally I looked head lice up and got Listerine antiseptic mouth wash put it on my daughter's hair and left it over night then rinse in cold water. For the lice eggs I use white vinegar. It works well.

head lice treatment
suggested by Cecelia on Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My family and I were prone to them. I've tried everything from mayonnaise, to store treatments, to gasoline or kerosene. The combs didn't pull anything out and the mayo just made our hair oily. But the only thing that seemed to work every time was wintergreen alcohol. We chose the wintergreen kind because it smelled the best. Just place a warm wet rag over the mouth and nose so you won't have difficulty breathing from the fumes. Explain to the kids about the whole process. Works. Pour on the hair, a spray bottle works too, rub it in getting to the scalp, pull it back with a clip and put on a shower cap for about two hours. While doing that wash all clothes and bedding in hot water. The heat kills them. Wash out hair with T-gel following instructions on bottle because it could dry out the scalp. Pick out the nits because they still stick to the hair whether they are dead or not.

mayo it up!
suggested by [unspecified] on Sunday, March 9, 2008

I had head lice as a child in the worst of ways. After every over the counter and prescriptions you can buy nothing worked, so we turned to the fridge. Take 1 inch section of hair and smoothen with mayonnaise. You want the mayonnaise so thick that it leaves the hair looking a little white. Wrap in saran wrap and a shower cap and leave it over night. You should use a whole jar of mayonnaise. Rinse the next morning, the lice will be gone, not mention it’s an excellence conditioner!

Head Lice that won't die
suggested by Serene on Monday, January 14, 2008

I had a horrible case of head lice when I was younger. I used a doctor prescribed head lice treatment twice! And the lice where still thriving. After getting blisters on my head and losing a small amount of hair on my hairline (which never quite grew back!) I was very frustrated. What finally got rid of the pests was dousing my hair in Vaseline than cover it in saran wrap. I wore this for two days and miraculously the lice where gone.

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