When your child or anyone else in your family comes home with a head lice infestation, you may rush to find the quickest lice treatment available. Be sure to do your research, though. As with any kind of condition, there are a variety of lice treatment options available.
Getting rid of head lice requires multiple steps, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a long, drawn out process. By using the right treatments and lice removal techniques, your child will be free from lice in no time.
Step 1: Diagnosis
The first step is diagnosis. You’ll want to ensure lice are present before beginning the treatment process. To diagnose, perform a thorough head check to search for adult lice, nits and nymphs.
Step 2: Lice Treatment
If lice are present, it’s time to move on to treatment. Various lice treatments are available, including over-the-counter options, prescription formulas, and professional treatments from lice removal specialists.
Step 3: How to Beat Lice
Once treatment is concluded, ensure lice don’t return by practicing lice prevention techniques. Avoid sharing hair brushes, hats, scarves, and other items which could transfer lice between people
Diagnosis of Lice
Identifying living head lice and nits can be difficult, so the assistance of tools like a fine-toothed lice comb, magnifying glass or bright light during the head check are recommended.
During the head check, look for live adult lice or nymphs moving throughout the person’s scalp or hair. Lice move quickly and avoid light, so check small sections of hair carefully using a fine-toothed comb and magnifying glass if needed.
If you don’t find any living lice, look for nits. If any nits are found within ¼ of an inch of the scalp, an infestation is likely present. Nits found further than ¼ of an inch of the scalp are most likely dead, and treatment is not necessary.
Once a head lice infestation is found, treatment may begin.
Over-the-Counter Lice Treatment
Over-the-counter (OTC) options are the first thing many people turn to for lice treatment, due to easy accessibility and affordability.
Most OTC treatments contain pyrethrin, a chemical compound derived from the chrysanthemum flower, but are often combined with chemical additives to enhance toxicity to head lice. These toxic additives can bring on unpleasant side effects like redness and itching of the scalp. It’s also important that those who are allergic to chrysanthemum and ragweed avoid treatments containing pyrethrin.
Other OTC treatments include the synthetic version of pyrethrin, called permethrin, which can also cause side effects like an itchy, red scalp.
OTC options usually require a second treatment approx. nine days after the initial treatment, but even when follow-up treatments, these options are not typically effective due to improper use or the growing resistance of lice to treatment.
If OTC options fail to eliminate lice, your doctor may prescribe a prescription lice treatment medication like Ulesfia, Ovide or Lindane.
While typically effective, the medications can be very harsh, expensive, and may include side effects ranging from itching and redness of the scalp or even seizures in extreme cases.
Professional Lice Removal Services
The third option for treatment is to opt for professional lice removal services at a clinic or treatment center. These services are offered by trained lice removal specialists, often utilizing a multiple-step approach to treating lice.
Typically, these lice removal specialists will perform a head check and comb-out, apply a lice-killing agent, and provide instructions for an at-home follow-up treatment.
Once treatment is completed, keeping head lice at away for good is the goal. Implement lice prevention practices throughout your entire family immediately to ensure the little pests don’t return.
- Teach children to avoid sharing items like hair brushes, hats, scarves or other clothing to prevent the potential spread of an infestation.
- Keep long hair tied back tightly if an infestation is suspected.
- It sounds strange, but tell your children to avoid selfies during a suspected lice infestation. The close proximity inherent to selfies could allow lice to crawl from one child’s head to the other.