When selecting a
head lice treatment consider safety,
efficacy, ease of
use and cost.
Treating Head Lice
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends treatment for active head lice infestations. If head lice or nits are found in your child's hair or scalp, it is important to talk to a school nurse or other healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. Commonly used treatment options, which are applied to the hair and scalp, include over-the-counter (OTC) products purchased in a store and medications prescribed by a healthcare provider and obtained at a pharmacy. When selecting a head lice treatment consider safety, efficacy, ease of use and cost.
- Some head lice medications approved by the FDA are available only by prescription.
- There are effective prescription treatment options that are safe and do not require nit combing (although you may want to remove nits for aesthetic reasons).
- Application times on the hair and scalp vary from four minutes up to several hours.
- Some options are indicated for one time only; others may need to be repeated after initial use.
- OTC products – plant-based insecticides or synthetic chemical insecticides – can be purchased at drug stores.
- Resistance to some OTC head lice treatments has been reported, possibly due to misuse. The prevalence of resistance is not known.
- Alternative treatments, such as herbal or home remedies, are available but are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of head lice.
- Home remedies or natural head lice treatments do not have to meet the safety and efficacy standards established for pharmaceutical products.
- There is no scientific evidence that home remedies are effective for treating head lice.
Treatment directions should be followed closely. Some head lice treatments can be dangerous if misused. Using extra amounts or multiple applications of the same medication is not recommended, unless directed by healthcare provider.