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In Case of Head Lice, Do This - Home Remedy

Tim Boyer's picture
FDA head lice advice

It’s that time of the year again - a new school semester and the potential for head lice. Here’s a summary of some timely advice from the FDA on what you should do in case your child brings home some head lice homework for you.


Head Lice Facts:

• Head lice cases typically peak in the fall and again in January.

• An estimated 6 to 12 million cases of head lice infestation occur each year in the United States in children 3 to 11 years of age.

• Head lice are most common among preschool children attending child care, elementary school children, and household members of children who have lice.

• Contrary to myth, head lice are not caused by poor hygiene; rather, they are spread mainly by direct head-to-head contact with a person who already has head lice.

• You cannot get head lice from your pets.

• Head lice feed only on humans.

• Head lice don’t fly or jump―they move by crawling.

• Head lice survive less than one or two days if they fall off the scalp and cannot feed.

How to Tell If Head Lice are Present

There’s two things to look for—insects and nits (the eggs). Lice are tan to grayish-white in color and about the size of a sesame seed; Nits look like dandruff. Lice attach themselves to the scalp where they feed on blood, and reproduce by laying their eggs on hair follicles. Nits are typically difficult to pull free from a strand of hair using your fingers.

The best way to find them is to use a magnifying glass and a strong light as you part the hair in several places when checking your suspect child.

Here’s an Informative Video on How to Identify Lice and Nits

What to Do If You Find Lice

First and foremost—don’t panic. It is easily remedied and should not become a volatile issue between a parent with the school or with other parents. Second, contact your pediatrician—especially if your child is under the age of two--and see if he or she has some OTC recommendations or determines a prescription lice treatment is warranted.

Here’s a cheap and easy way to get rid of head lice.

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Steps for Safe Lice Removal

The FDA recommends the following steps for lice removal:

• After rinsing the product from the hair and scalp, use a fine-toothed comb or special “nit comb” to remove dead lice and nits.

• Apply the product only to the scalp and the hair attached to the scalp—not to other body hair.

• Before treating young children, talk with the child’s doctor or your pharmacist for recommended treatments based on a child’s age and weight.

• Use medication exactly as directed on the label and never more often than directed unless advised by your health care professional.

• Use treatments on children only under the direct supervision of an adult—don’t let a child (or sibling) do the treatment.

Head Lice Prevention Tips

The FDA recommends the following tips for “heading off” head lice:

• Teach children to avoid head-to-head contact during play.

• Teach children not to share clothing and hair/head related items.

• Disinfest combs and brushes used by a person with head lice by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.

• Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with a person with head lice.

• Clean items that have been in contact with the head of a person with lice. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items using hot water (130°F) and a high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for two weeks upon which any lice will die off.

• Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the person with lice sat or lay.

• Do not use insecticide sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

• After finishing treatment with lice medication, check everyone in your family for lice after one week. If live lice are found, contact your health care professional.

Reference: FDA Consumer Updates “Treating Head Lice