What is the most effective treatment for head lice?

What is the most effective treatment for head lice?

Children getting head lice is a common problem for parents. Lice are wingless insects that feed on the blood from the scalp and live on the hair.

Contrary to what most people believe, getting head lice does not mean that the person has poor hygiene. 

Lice can easily spread from one person to another who share close contact. It can also spread by sharing clothes, combs, and hats. This is why it is very common in children who go to schools or do group activities together. 

The lice do not spread disease or bacteria, but they bite as they suck blood from the scalp. They tend to be very itchy, which is why you may notice that children with lice often scratch their heads.

Life Cycle of Head Lice 

They are tiny insects with three living stages: nit (egg), nymph, and adult louse. 

Nits are usually white or yellowish in colour. They are often mistaken as dandruff because of the similarity in appearance. Even after hatching, the shells of the nits usually stay on the strands of the hair. 

Nymphs are very small creatures. It takes about 9 days for them to reach the adult stage. 

Adult lice look similar to nymphs but bigger. They move by crawling. However, they are hard to spot because they crawl very fast. These are the ones that lay eggs. 

Signs of Head Lice

  • Tickling as a sign of movement in the hair

  • Frequent scratching due to itchiness

  • Bumps and sores in the head

  • Skin infection as a result of excessive scratching 


Ways to Remove Head Lice

By hand and comb

Parents who do not want to use chemicals for head lice treatment may use the manual method. 

First, make sure that the hair of the child is tangle-free. Next, divide the hair into sections. Finally, use a fine-tooth comb in each hair section to remove lice and eggs. 


Lice can be treated with OTC or prescription medication. 

Often, OTC products come in the form of shampoo that contains active ingredients. Usually, the shampoo will only be able to kill nymphs and adults, not the nits. This is why it is important to repeat the treatment after 9 days. 

Active ingredients to look for in OTC products:

  • Pyrethrins

  • Permethrin lotion 1%

Active ingredients in prescription products: 

  • Benzyl alcohol lotion, 5%

  • Ivermectin lotion, 0.5%

  • Malathion lotion, 0.5%

Always follow the instructions on the label or the dosage given by the doctor to avoid complications. 

After using medicated lotion or shampoo to get rid of lice, you may use the fine-tooth comb to check if some are still alive. 


Follow the steps below to prevent head lice from coming back.

  • Clean the household. Vacuum the carpet, wash the clothes, pillowcases and bed linens.

  • Clean combs, brushes, and hats used by your child.

  • Make sure that your child avoids contact with persons who have lice.

  • Check your child's hair from time to time.

Important Notes

Some OTC products may be ineffective because the head lice were able to develop resistance. In this case, it is better to go to the doctor to get a prescription. 

Do not forget to get your fine hair comb, lice treatment shampoo, or your prescription lice medicine from St Heliers Pharmacy in Auckland.