What Experts Say is the Best Lice Treatment

Head lice: it makes you itch just thinking about it. And, school is one place your child might find these unwanted friends. Stacey Killian, a director at UnityPoint Health, lists the best lice treatment strategies, including when it’s time to see the doctor.

Signs of Lice

Killian says lice are absolutely as common now as they have been in the past, especially during the school year when large groups of children are in close quarters. Most often, head lice affect children between the ages of 3 and 12. She lists the following as the most common signs of lice:

  • Scratching behind the ears and at the nape of the neck
  • Nits (eggs) attached to hairs
  • Open sores and scabs on the head

“Head lice spread through hair-to-hair contact or by shared objects, like hats or headgear,” Killian says. “Lice can’t hop or fly, and they can’t be transmitted through household pets.”

Best Lice Treatment Plan

If you find head lice on your child, there’s no question you want them gone fast. Killian says effective lice treatment includes over-the-counter options, alternative methods or using prescription treatments. She gives these tips:

  • Follow all directions carefully. Lice treatments are not always 100 percent effective, and nits may hatch within seven days. Several different treatments include Vamousse, Lice Ice and Rid. Prescription head lice treatment may also be available through your doctor.
  • Combing isn’t optional. Use a fine-tooth comb daily to remove all nits.
  • Wash all personal belongings. This includes combs, brushes and hair accessories. Give member of the family his/her own brush or comb, teaching your child not to share these with others, even siblings.
  • Protect your house. Vacuum areas well. Store stuffed animals in a tightly-closed plastic bag for 14 days or in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. Environmental sprays are not recommended.
  • Haircuts aren’t the answer. Shaving your child's hair is not a recommended treatment for head lice. While treatment of longer hair may be more time consuming and difficult to treat, following all directions on the lice treatment, cleaning of personal belongings and environment, along with daily combing will take care of an infestation.
  • Stay in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not keeping kids from school, as lice don’t present a medical or public health hazard. While lice are a nuisance, there are more appropriate ways to handle treatment without disrupting the child's learning environment.
  • When to see a doctor. Traditional lice treatment should always be the first line of treatment. Reoccurring, or live lice, 14 days after treatment should be looked at by your doctor.

What about Super Lice?

Super lice, or head lice resistant to active ingredients in common treatments, sound scary. But, Killian says it’s not a new problem.

“Some over-the-counter treatments can become less effective over time. Treatments not working could instead be the result of not following the treatment plan correctly or a possible re-infestation – rather than super lice. If live lice are still present after 14 days, or if a family has questions or concerns, they should see their doctor,” Killian says.