Head Lice

Head lice live only on humans and can be spread quickly by using the hat, comb, or brush of an infected person, or by close contact.  Anyone can get lice despite good health habits.  The nits (eggs) normally hatch into lice within one week.  Pubic lice (“crabs”) are slightly different but are treated in the same way.  They can be transmitted from bedding or clothing and don’t signify sexual contact.  With treatment, all lice and nits will be killed.  A recurrence usually means another contact with an infected person.  There are no lasting problems from having lice, and they do not carry other diseases.

Characteristics include: 

  • Nits (white eggs) firmly attached to hairs
  • Unlike dandruff, can’t be shaken off
  • Gray bugs (lice) are 1/16 inch long, move quickly, and are difficult to see
  • The scalp itches and has a rash
  • The back of the neck is the favorite area
  • The nits are easier to see than the lice because they are white and very numerous

Home Treatment  

Antilice Shampoo or Rinse.  Wash the hair with your regular shampoo, rinse it, and towel dry it.  Pour about 2 ounces of the Antilice shampoo into the dry hair.  Scrub the hair and scalp for 10 to 20 minutes.  Rinse the hair thoroughly and dry it with a towel.  These shampoos kill the lice and the nits.  Most antilice shampoos need to be repeated once in 7 days to prevent reinfection.

Removing Nits.  Remove the nits by back combing with a fine-tooth comb or pull them out individually.  The nits can be loosened from the hair shafts using a mixture of half vinegar and half water applied for 30 minutes under a towel wrap.  Even though the nits are dead, most schools will not allow children to return if nits are present.  Obviously, the hair does not need to be shaved to cure lice.

Lice in the Eyelashes.  If you see any lice or nits in the eyelashes, apply petroleum jelly to the eyelashes twice a day for 8 days.

Cleaning the House.  Lice can’t live for more than 72 hours off the human body.  Your child’s room should be vacuumed.  Combs and brushes should be soaked for 1 hour in a solution made from the antilice shampoo.  Wash your child’s sheets, blankets, and pillowcases in hot water.  Items that can’t be washed can be set aside in plastic bags for 3 weeks (the longest that nits can survive).  Antilice sprays or fumigation of the house is unnecessary.

Contagiousness.  Check the heads of everyone else living in your home.  If any have scalp rashes, sores, or itching, they should be treated with the antilice shampoo even if lice and nits are not seen.  Your child can return to school after one shampoo treatment.  Emphasize to your child that he or she should not share combs or hats.

Call our office during regular hours if . . . 

  • The rash and itching are not cleared by 1 week after treatment.
  • The sores start to spread or look infected.
  • The lice or nits return.
  • You have other questions or concerns.