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Head Lice Treatments

Treatment

Treating head lice involves removing eggs and killing lice so that they can't continue to lay eggs. Treatment may be difficult because in some regions lice have become resistant to many of the commonly used medications. Some experts recommend that treatment be given only when live adult lice are seen.

Methods include:

  • Applying over-the-counter shampoo containing the insecticide, permethrin. It is very important to use medications as directed. Retreatment at 7-10 days is usually required to kill any lice that hatch from unremoved eggs.
  • Removing lice on the eyelashes, which may be difficult. Tweezers can be used to pick them off. Vaseline may be used to coat the eyelashes and kill the lice.
  • Unless instructed otherwise, remove eggs manually with specially designed combs. Eggs stick firmly to hair. Products such as “Clear," which loosen the eggs, may assist in removal.

Most cases of head lice can be treated with over-the-counter preparations. However, there is increasing resistance to permethrin and pyrethrin in the US. Malathion is currently available with a doctor’s prescription. It has become a first-line treatment since kills both the lice and their eggs. In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe lindane .

Lindane is neurotoxic and carries a black box warning. Follow the instructions carefully. It should only be prescribed to patients who are unable to take other medications or who have not responded to them. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s warning, lindane can rarely cause serious side effects, including seizure and death. Those especially susceptible are infants, the elderly, children and adults weighing under 110 lbs, and individuals with other skin conditions. Lindane is toxic and should not be overused. Patients are given small amounts (1-2 oz) of the shampoo or lotion and instructed to apply a very thin layer and not to reapply. For more information, visit the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research website .

If you or your child are diagnosed as having head lice, follow your doctor's instructions .

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2020 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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