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Lice Treatment

1. Remove the Lice and Eggs

  • Use an anti-lice shampoo available over the counter or by prescription. Follow packaging directions. Repeat seven to 10 days later.
  • The shampoo may not kill all the nits, or eggs. While hair is wet, use a fine-tooth comb to remove the tiny white eggs. Start with small sections of hair and work out from the scalp.
  • Wet combing is also an option for parents who don't want to use an anti-lice shampoo.
  • Wet combing takes time. A bright light and a magnifying glass will help.
  • Don't use oils or gasoline to remove lice, because they can be dangerous.

If you don't want to use a lice shampoo, there are several topical medications a doctor can prescribe for getting rid of lice and nits.

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Ovide (malathion lotion). When used as directed, this is a safe way to kill live lice and to partially remove lice eggs in adults and children 6 and over. The lotion needs to be applied to dry scalp and hair and left on for 8 to 12 hours while the hair dries naturally. After 8 to 12 hours, shampoo the hair and use a fine tooth comb to remove dead lice and eggs. Malathion lotion is flammable, so avoid any source of heat, such as hair dryers, curling irons, cigarettes, or open flame, while the lotion is on the head.

Natroba(spinosad). This is intended for use on dry scalp and hair by adults and children who are at least 4 years old. Natroba should never be used on infants because the benzyl alcohol it contains can cause serious side effects, including death, in infants. The medication should be applied to the hair and scalp and left on for 10 minutes before being thoroughly rinsed out with warm water. Then, while the hair is still slightly damp, a nit comb can be used to remove lice eggs from the scalp and hair.

Sklice (ivemectin). This lotion is safe for adults and children at least 6 months old. In most cases it requires only a single 10-minute application and rinse with no combing to remove lice and eggs. If you might be pregnant or are breastfeeding, let your doctor know and do not use Sklice without your doctor's approval.

2. Stop the Spread

  • Check other family members for lice. Anyone who sleeps in the same bed as the affected person should be treated for head lice, even if none is found.
  • Vacuum floors and furniture. Throw out the vacuum bag.
  • Wash all sheets, towels, and clothing that you've used in the last two days. Use hot water.
  • Objects that can't be washed, like stuffed animals, should be placed in a plastic bag for two weeks.

Follow-up

Getting rid of lice for good takes a few weeks.

  • Comb your hair for nits every 2-3 days.
  • 7-10 days later, use the anti-lice shampoo to kill any newly hatched lice.
  • If you still find lice after that, see your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on January 05, 2014

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