The Facts of Lice

November 1, 2016

Just the thought of lice can make a person’s head itch. Head lice are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye and can cause a lot of discomfort for people. Head lice do not spread disease, but it is recommended to treat it so that the lice do not spread from person to person. Lice are often confused as dandruff or dirt so they can easily be missed. They do not fly or jump, but move quickly. Head lice is spread through head to head contact and sharing items such as brushes, hats, and pillows.

There are several products available for head lice, including treatments with medication, lice combs, and shampoos. The two most common over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are Rid and Nix. They contain similar ingredients that work to kill the lice. It is important to follow the directions provided on the box and keep in mind that a second treatment may be necessary if all the lice are not killed with the first treatment. There are lice that may not be killed by these OTC products and are often referred to as “super lice.” If an OTC treatment does not get rid of head lice after the second treatment, call your healthcare provider. You may need to get a prescription for a treatment that works a little differently than those that are OTC.

Along with using these OTC products, it is important to use a lice comb to help remove lice from the hair. This should be done in a well lit area and may require use of a magnifying glass to help see the very small lice on the scalp. The following recommendations should be considered when cleaning the home of a person infected with head lice:

  • Wash clothes, bedding, and towels in hot water
  • For things that cannot be washed in a machine, vacuum or put them in a sealed bag for 2 weeks
  • Soak combs and brushes in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) for 5-10 minutes

Please stop in or call your local pharmacist if you have any questions regarding head lice and to help with selecting the best product.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention