Lice (Pediculosis)

Lice Treatment

  • Nits (white eggs) are firmly attached to hairs.
  • Unlike dandruff, nits 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.


Head lice only live on human beings and can be spread quickly by using the hat, comb, or brush of an infected person or simply by close contact. Anyone can get lice despite good health habits and frequent hair washing. The nits (eggs) normally hatch into lice within 1 week. Pubic lice (“crabs”) are slightly different but are treated the same way. They can be transmitted from bedding or clothing and do not signify sexual contact.

Expected Course

With treatment, all lice and nits will be killed. A recurrence usually means another contact with an infected person or the shampoo wasn’t left on for 20 minutes. There are no lasting problems from having lice and they do not carry other diseases.

Home Treatment

Antilice Shampoo or Rinse.

There are several different types of Lice shampoo, Nix or Rid are two examples.

Wash the hair with your regular shampoo, rinse, and towel-dry. Pour about 2 ounces of the shampoo into the damp hair. Scrub the hair and scalp for 10-20 minutes. Rinse the hair thoroughly and dry it with a towel. These shampoos kill both the lice and the nits. Most antilice shampoos need to be repeated once in 7 days to prevent reinfection. (Note: Antilice shampoos, such as Nix or Rid, only requires one application.)

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. It is critically to spend the time to clean each hair strand individually; it is the only way to be sure all the nits are gone. 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. The lice won’t survive.

Cleaning the House. Lice can’t live for more than 72 hours (3 days) 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 (hats, coats, or toys) can be set aside in plastic bags for 3 weeks (the longest that nits can survive). Car upholstery should also be cleaned. 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 treatment with the shampoo. Re-emphasize to your child that he or she should not share combs and hats. Notify any organization that your child might be involved with to help find the source and/or prevent further spread (e.g., dance class, sports teams, scout troops, etc.).

Recurrance. What should you do if the prior treatment does not work? The lice are becoming very resistant to the medications so we often have to recommend the “old fashion” methods of lice treatment using petroleum jelly on the scalp and hair with a shower cap overnight to smother the lice. The next morning shampoo the hair and remove all the nits from the hair by combing each hair strand individually; a process which can take hours but works!

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.