Head Lice Prevention & Treatment
Head lice are tiny insects that live in hair. Nits are the empty egg cases attached to hair that head lice hatch from.
Head lice are a common problem, particularly in school children aged 4-11. They’re largely harmless, but can live in the hair for a long time if not treated and can be irritating and frustrating to deal with.
How do you get head lice?
Head lice are spread by direct head to head contact. They climb from one person’s hair to another’s.
- can’t fly, jump or swim
- are very unlikely to be spread by objects such as hats, combs and pillows
- don’t prefer dirty, clean, short or long hair
- only affect people and can’t be caught from animals
Once detached from the hair, head lice will usually die within 12-24 hours.
How to spot head lice
Head lice are tiny insects that live in the hair and prolifically lay eggs on the scalp which hatch in about seven days. The first part of treatment is identifying lice in hair. A fully-grown louse is a roughly the size of a sesame seed and whitish or grey-brown in colour, while the eggs are white and typically the size of a pin head, which makes both very hard to spot.
Head lice can spread quickly, so be sure to check everyone in the household for head lice with a head inspection and combing the hair through with a fine-tooth comb or a special detection comb that can be purchased from pharmacies. If you find live lice in hair, you know you can begin treatment, but only apply head lice solutions to hair where you have seen a live louse.
Other signs of head lice include finding small white eggs or nits (egg cases) in the hair, typically behind the ears or at the base of the neck; itchy scalp; a rash at the base of the neck; and the feeling that something is moving in the scalp.
How to treat head lice
Everyone with head lice in your household should be treated on the same day.
If a treatment doesn’t work the first time, you can try it again, try a different treatment
Lotions & Sprays
There are several different products that can be applied to the scalp and hair to kill head lice, including:
- dimeticone 4% lotion or lotion spray – applied and left for 8 hours (usually overnight)
- dimeticone 4% spray gel – applied and left for 15 minutes
- mineral oil and dimeticone spray – applied and left for 15 minutes
- isopropyl myristate and cyclomethicone solution – applied and left for 5-10 minutes
Some treatments need be done twice – seven days apart – to make sure any newly hatched lice are killed.
The NHS Minor Ailments Service provides treatment for Head Lice under the scheme FREE of charge for patients under 16 years of age. This service is available at all pharmacies.
Does these mean head lice are indestructible?
With head lice showing a significant resistance to modern treatments, this has led some to believe they’re becoming indestructible, which is true to some extent. Their ability to evolve and adapt to resist chemicals in modern pharmaceutical treatments does demonstrate their tenacious nature. But they aren’t immune to the traditional method of detection combing. Although it may take longer than a simple shampoo or spray, it may be more effective.
How can I prevent head lice?
As part of the treatment for head lice it’s also important to consider prevention methods too. Carrying out regular head checks with a detection comb will ensure any lice found in hair are detected early and can be treated right away. This in turn will not only reduce the unpleasantness of having head lice, but will also reduce the chances of it from spreading to other people. You can also use a repellent on a daily basis too.
Check hair regularly with a nit comb
If your child’s school has mentioned an onset of head lice, be sure to check your child’s hair regularly with a nit comb. Trying to spot lice isn’t always an easy job, as new lice are quite translucent, so the best way to look is by separating the hair into small sections, from front to back.
After combing through each section of hair, wipe the contents on a piece of tissue to see if you can see any moving lice. Pay attention to behind the ears and the back of the neck too.
Don’t share head-touching items
Items such as towels, hair brushes or hats should avoid being shared, especially if your child’s school may have mentioned an outbreak. Sharing head-touching items can be one of the ways that head lice may be spread between children, so try to encourage them to not share such personal items.
Avoid head-to-head contact
Head-to-head contact is one of the most common ways that head lice gets passed from child to child.
It can be difficult to avoid this with younger children, as you can’t always discourage them from games and activities which might lead to closer contact. But if you know that head lice might be going around your child’s school, ask them to steer clear of any games where head-to-head contact may be involved.
Tie children’s hair up when in school
Trying to prevent a child from playing closely with friends is practically impossible. So, if your child has longer hair, tie it up into a pony tail or a plait, to try and keep the loose hair to a minimum.
Keep things clean
It is important to keep bed sheets, pillowcases and clothes as clean as possible to get rid of any lingering lice eggs. If your child has had a sleepover recently, be sure to wash whatever might have meet other children’s hair/heads.
At Dears Pharmacy, we also stock Lyclear Head Lice Repellent which is scientifically proven to provide immediate and long lasting protection against head lice. Its gentle formulation with IR3535 and natural plant extracts effectively repels head lice for up to 24 hours. Suitable for children as young as 12 months, Lyclear Repellent is easy to use, non-greasy and has a pleasant fragrance.
Use Lyclear Head Lice Repellent daily during head lice outbreaks to help keep the hair head lice free or start to use it immediately after having completed a head lice treatment to avoid re-infestation.