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Head Lice - How You can Treat Them?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Rashmi Mittal 93% (141 ratings)
Senior Residency, DNB - Dermatology Venereology & Leprosy , MD - Dermatology, MBBS
Dermatologist, Mumbai  •  25 years experience
Head Lice - How You can Treat Them?

‘Head lice’ are insects that feed on the blood of your scalp. This condition usually affects children and is moderately contagious. Contrary to popular belief, head lice does not occur due to poor personal hygiene.

The symptoms of head lice are:

1. Presence of lice on scalp: Lice are small insects that are usually hard to spot. But their infestation can be felt because you experience intense itching on the scalp.

2. Itching: There will be intense itching on the scalp and the neck. This itching occurs due to the saliva secretion by the lice that the skin is allergic to. Usually, the itching starts after 3 to 6 weeks of infestation.

3. Lice eggs: The lice eggs stick to the shafts of the hair. They are very hard to spot as they are small and well camouflaged.

What can be the reasons behind their infestation

This condition is contagious; apart from direct contact with the scalp of an infected person, this condition can also spread if you happen to share the below mentioned items with an infected person:

1. Brushes

2. Hats

3. Headphones

4. Towels

5. Pillows

6. Accessories for the hair

The treatments for hair lice are:

1. Over- the counter (OTC) products: OTC products are made from ‘pyrethrin’, a compound extracted from the ‘chrysanthemum’ flower. ‘Pyrethrin’ works as an insecticidal compound and it is advised to use these medications only after washing your hair with a shampoo. Vinegar may also be used to loosen the nits from the hair shafts.

2. Prescription medications: Certain medications can also be prescribed by the doctor, such as benzyl alcohol and lindane.

Certain home remedies for head lice include:

1. Essential oils: Apply oils such as Anise oil or tea tree on the scalp; these oils act as toxins for the lice.

2. Wet combing: This is a method wherein the wet hair is combed using a fine toothed comb to remove the nits and the lice. Repeat the procedure for 3-4 days every week. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a dermatologist and ask a free question.

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