What is the Treatment of Head Lice?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 09, 2011

What is the Treatment of Head Lice

If you or anybody in your family is infected with head lice, everyone in the family should be treated to get rid of head lice. Read on to know more about head lice treatment.

Treatment of Head Lice


You may use an over-the-counter or prescription lice killing medicine. The medicine should be used for everyone who is infested. The steps to be followed while using these medications are as follows:

  • Remove all your clothing and then apply the lice-killing medicine according to the instructions given for the particular product.
  • Apply the medicine liberally on your scalp and hair and do not wash the hair for 1-2 days after treatment.
  • Everyone affected with head lice should wear clean clothes after treatment.
  • If there are some lice left after the treatment which, are moving more slowly compared to the before treatment period, you don’t need to be re-treated. Use a comb to remove dead and remaining live lice out of the hair. Sometimes the medications can take more time than the time recommended on the package to kill the lice.
  • After the application of the medicine, if the lice seem to be active or no dead lice, are found upon combing, change the medication (probably the medicine was not effective). Follow the treatment as per instructions on the label.
  • Use a nit comb to remove nits and lice from the hair shaft after treatment. Following the treatment, use the comb to remove nits and lice from your hair after every 2-3 days.
  • Most people need to be re-treated in 7-10 days.
  • Everyone after treatment should be checked for 2-3 weeks until it is confirmed that all lice and nits are gone.

Medications for Head Lice treatment: OTC (over-the-counter) and prescription medications are available for treatment of head lice.

OTC Lice Medications: Several head lice OTC medications are available and each of these products contains either pyrethrins or permethrin.

  • Pyrethrins are effective for killing crawling lice, and hatched nits. Re-treatment after 7-10 days is recommended to kill any newly hatched lice. Cases of treatment failures are not uncommon.
  • Permethrin: Permethrin is also safe and effective for the treatment of head lice. It can kill newly hatched lice for many days following initial treatment. However, re-treatment after 7-10 days is recommended to kill any newly hatched lice after the first treatment. Failures are not uncommon after permethrin treatment.

Prescription Drugs for Head Lice Treatment: Malathion and lindane are the commonly used drugs for head lice treatment. These medications should be used only after consulting a doctor.

  • Malathion: Malathion is an effective medication for treating lice when used as recommended. Residual medication in the hair can continue to kill newly hatched lice for seven days after treatment. It is recommended for use in people older than 6 years of age.
  • Lindane: This is also an effective medication for treating head lice. However, overuse, misuse, or accidentally swallowing it can cause toxic side-effects. Lindane is mostly used only after other medications have failed.

Treatment of Family Members: Head lice treatment of every member of the family is recommended to avoid re-infestation.

  • To kill lice and nits on clothing and bed linens, wash them in hot water (130 F) and dry them in a dryer (hot cycle for at least 20 minutes). All clothing and bed linens which the infested person touched during the 2 days before diagnosis should be washed. If the clothing or linen is not washable, seal them in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.
  • Similarly, seal all other non-washable items (such as stuffed animals and comforters) in plastic bags for 2 weeks. Things such as coats, hats, and scarves can be dry-cleaned.
  • Combs and brushes can be cleaned by soaking them in rubbing alcohol or Lysol for about 1 hour, or washing with soap and hot water.
  • The floor of the house and all furniture should be cleaned by vacuum. The use of lice sprays is not recommended as they can be toxic if inhaled.


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