Head lice (pediculosis) is a vexing problem for parents during the school year. Infestations with head lice are pretty common among school-aged children, and can be difficult to eradicate. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there, so here are some basics about lice, according to CDC guidelines and a few other recommendations.
All household members and other close contacts should be checked; those persons with evidence of an active infestation should be treated. All infested persons (household members and close contacts) and their bedmates should be treated at the same time. Treat the infested person(s): Using an Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication, follow these treatment steps:
- Before applying treatment, it may be helpful to remove clothing that can become wet or stained during treatment. Before and after each treatment, check the hair and use a nit comb to remove nits and lice every 1 -2 days. Continue to check for 2-3 weeks to be sure all lice and nits are gone. It is helpful to have two people checking the scalp with good lighting and magnification at the same time, sectioning off the hair and checking each section one by one.
- Apply lice medicine according to the instructions contained in the box or printed on the label. If the infested person has very long hair (longer than shoulder length), it may be necessary to use a second bottle. Pay special attention to instructions on the label or in the box regarding how long the medication should be left on the hair and how it should be washed out. After the lice medicine is washed out, do not re-wash the hair for 1-2 days.
If a few live lice are still found 8-12 hours after treatment, but are moving more slowly than before, do not retreat. The medicine may take longer to kill all the lice. Remove any remaining live lice out of the hair using a nit comb.
If at this point no dead lice are found and the live ones seem as active as before, the medicine may not be working. Speak with your health care provider to see if you may need a different medicine.
Retreatment is meant to kill any surviving hatched lice before they produce new eggs. For some drugs, retreatment is recommended routinely about a week after the first treatment (usually at 7-9 days). Ask your health care provider if you are not sure.
Supplemental Measures: Head lice do not survive long if they fall off a person and cannot feed. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money on housecleaning activities. Follow these steps to help avoid re-infestation:
- Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that the infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130Â°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
- Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130Â°F) for 5â€“10 minutes.
- Vacuum the floor and furniture where the infested person sat or lay. However, the risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a rug or carpet or furniture is very small. Nits or lice that are not on the scalp or in the hair near the scalp won’t survive.