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Lice Treatment: Examples of Over-the-Counter Products

There are quite a few over-the-counter products that claim to kill lice or their eggs (nits). The over-the-counter hair products that have been around the longest and are recommended to treat head lice and pubic lice are:1

  • Permethrin 1% creme rinse (such as Nix).
  • Pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide shampoo (such as RID).

These medicines contain chemicals that kill lice. Be sure to follow the directions about proper use and safety.

Itching may continue for 7 to 10 days after successful treatment with one of these medicines. Do not reapply the medicated shampoo or lotion during this time. You may want to try an over-the-counter cortisone cream to relieve the itching. Hydrocortisone cream should not be used for longer than 7 days without talking with your doctor. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area of children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.

A variety of other products say that they treat or prevent lice in a nontoxic way. But more study is needed to find out how well they work or how safe they are. Some of these products are homeopathic or contain essential oils. Some products say they smother (suffocate) lice. Others use hot air or another way to kill lice. Some of the active ingredients you may see are:

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about the safe use of over-the-counter lice products or if you want to know how well a product might work.


  1. Drugs for parasitic infections (2010). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 8(Suppl): e1–e20.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Current as of August 30, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 30, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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