What’s the Treatment for Lice? (2024)

Treatment for Lice

If you or your child has lice, you want a treatment that works fast. Lice affects 6 million to 12 million school kids every year. Many areas of the U.S. have lice that resist permethrin-based treatments, so you need to be aware of the best choices to get rid of lice.

Experts offer a few basic guidelines to help get these parasites under control:

  • If you see lice on your child’s head or body, begin treatment right away.
  • If you live with or are close to someone who has lice, you need to be checked for it.
  • Anyone who shares a bed with someone who has lice should be treated at the same time.

Head lice aren't a sign of poor hygiene or dirty living conditions. However, if lice go untreated, the problem will continue.

Lice treatment shampoo

Lice treatment shampoos (called pediculicides) are available over the counter or with a prescription. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor to recommend a product that’s safe to use.

Both over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription treatments may kill live lice and their eggs (nits). Check the labels to be sure. If lice are moving slowly after 9-10 hours, they are probably dying. Check with your doctor about whether you should reapply.

OTC lice treatments with pesticides contain these active ingredients:

  • Permethrin lotion,1% (Nix). This lice shampoo is approved for use in babies and children aged 2 months and older.
  • Piperonyl butoxide with pyrethrins (A-200, Pronto, R&C, Rid, Triple X, Xeglyze). You can use this treatment in kids aged 2 years and older. It’s made from the chrysanthemum flower. Don’t use it if you have an allergy to chrysanthemums (mums) or ragweed.

OTC treatments without pesticides include:

  • Dimethicone. This is a non-pesticide, silicone-based material that works by coating lice and interfering with their ability to manage water. Some studies have shown it to be more effective than products that contain pesticides.

Don’t use more than the recommended amount or combine products. If you still see lice moving after you use an OTC treatment, call a doctor. You may need a stronger product.

Prescription lice shampoos include:

  • Benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia). This lotion kills active lice, not eggs. It can treat head lice in children aged 6 months and older, and it’s safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Comb the hair first, shampoo the product into dry hair, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing. You need to repeat this treatment after a week.
  • Lindane prescription shampoo is also FDA-approved to treat lice. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends it because it has been linked to nervous system damage.

Lice treatment medications

Your doctor might prescribe one of these drugs to deal with lice.

  • Ivermectin (Sklice). This lotion kills most head lice, even newly hatched ones, with just one use. You don’t need to comb out lice eggs (nits). Children aged 6 months and older can use this product.
  • Malathion (Ovide). This very strong lotion paralyzes and kills lice and some lice eggs. It’s approved for use in kids aged 6 years and older. If you still see lice moving 7-9 days later, you’ll need a second treatment. Warning: The product is flammable. Avoid all cigarettes and heat sources, including blow dryers, curling irons, lighters, fireplaces, space heaters, and stoves. Using them at the same time can start a fire.
  • Spinosad (Natroba). You usually need only one treatment with this product. It kills nits and live lice. It’s safe for kids aged 6 months and older.

If other treatments don't work, your doctor might recommend Ivermectin tablets to be taken orally. You should only take this if prescribed by your doctor. Don't use veterinary versions of the drug.

Body lice treatment

If you have body lice, the first step is to wash yourself with soap and hot water. You also need to wash any contaminated items, such as clothes or bedding, in hot water. Dry them in a clothes dryer on high heat. Any clothes that can't go in a washing machine should be dry-cleaned or ironed.

If that doesn't get rid of the lice, try one of the OTC shampoos or lotions that contain 1% permethrin. If the problem continues, your doctor can give you a prescription lotion.

How to get rid of lice permanently

If you follow directions, you should be able to get rid of lice. But lice can always come back if you're exposed to them again. Some tips to lower the odds of that:

  • Avoid sharing hats, scarves, combs, and brushes.
  • Hang your kids' clothes on separate pegs.
  • Avoid beds, couches, pillows, and blankets that have been in contact with someone who has head lice.

How to Use Lice Treatments

Keep these tips in mind when using lice treatments:

  • Always follow the product instructions carefully.
  • Use a fine-tooth comb or the lice comb that came with the product to comb out all nits. (Some prescription products don’t require combing.)
  • If you’re using a lice shampoo, be sure to apply it over a sink or tub while you and your child are fully dressed. Don’t use the product while showering. You want to limit how much of it touches your body.

The most common side effect of lice treatments is skin irritation. They may cause a temporary burning or stinging sensation.

Lice Treatment at Home

If you don’t want to use chemical treatments, talk to your doctor about other options. There are some treatments you can do yourself. These home remedies include:

  • Wet combing. Simply wet the hair and use a fine-tooth comb to remove active lice and their eggs. You’ll need to do this every week for at least 3 weeks.
  • Essential oils. Plant oils such as tea tree and anise may suffocate and kill lice, but it’s not clear how well this works. You can also have an allergic reaction to these and other essential oils.
  • Smothering agents. Some people try to suffocate and kill lice by putting large amounts of a greasy substance on their scalp, then covering it with a shower cap, and leaving it on while they sleep. You can try petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, or olive oil. But these may not work well.

Does dying your hair kill lice?

Hair dye can contain harsh chemicals such as ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, which could damage lice. But the most effective way to kill lice is with a treatment designed for that job.

How to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home

Lice can crawl off your body onto nearby things, such as bedding, towels, and hats. But they need human blood to survive, so they don’t live long after they fall off your body. Try these tips to treat lice in your house:

  • Use heat. Wash any items used or worn by the person in hot water, and dry them on high heat. Lice and nits die when exposed to temperatures higher than 130 F for more than 5 minutes. Wash anything that might have touched the person’s skin or scalp, including jackets, hats, scarves, pillowcases, sheets, and headbands.
  • Bag items in plastic. If you can’t toss the items into the washer and dryer, seal them in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum your rugs, sofas, upholstery, furniture, and floors to remove hairs that may have active lice eggs attached.
  • Clean hair tools. Soak brushes, combs, and other hair accessories in hot, soapy water for 5-10 minutes.
  • Don’t use insecticide fogs or sprays. These fumigating treatments can be toxic if you inhale them or absorb them through your skin.

If you have lice, try not to be embarrassed. It’s not a sign of disease or being dirty. Even the cleanest people get it. Consider telling friends and teachers so they check their kids and classrooms and stop these pests from spreading.


Head lice are a common problem, especially among children who come in close contact with each other. If you or someone in your family has lice, begin treatment right away with a product specifically designed to kill lice. You may have to do more than one treatment. Follow the directions carefully.

Lice Treatment FAQs

What kills lice immediately?

Various OTC and prescription shampoos and lotions are effective for killing lice, but you'll need to choose the formula that's right for you or your family member. Some are not recommended for children below a certain age. The first treatment may not kill all the lice and eggs (called nits).

Can head lice live on pillows and sheets?

Yes, they can, but not for very long. They need warmth and human blood to survive. Still, it's best to wash items that came in contact with lice using hot water.

What's the best treatment for lice in the head?

The best way to treat head lice is with an OTC or prescription medicine designed for the job. If you're not sure which one to use, check with your doctor.

What’s the Treatment for Lice? (2024)


What’s the Treatment for Lice? ›

If you have body lice

body lice
Body lice are tiny insects, about the size of a sesame seed. Body lice live in your clothing and bedding and travel to your skin several times a day to feed on blood. The most common sites for bites are around the neck, shoulders, armpits, waist and groin — places where clothing seams are most likely to touch skin.
https://www.mayoclinic.org › symptoms-causes › syc-20350310
, first bathe with soap and water. After bathing, apply permethrin (Nix) to the affected areas before bedtime and then shower in the morning. Repeat this treatment nine days after the first application. Also take other measures to get rid of body lice.

Can I treat lice myself? ›

Your first line of defense against head lice is an over-the-counter (OTC) head lice treatment that typically comes in the form of shampoo. The main difference between various products is the active ingredient and which stages of head lice it kills.

What is the proper treatment for head lice? ›

Spinosad (Natroba).

Spinosad is approved for adults and children age 6 months and older. It can be applied to dry hair and rinsed with warm water after 10 minutes. It kills lice and nits and usually doesn't need repeated treatment.

What kills lice immediately? ›

Washing, soaking, or drying items at a temperature greater than 130°F can kill both head lice and nits. Dry cleaning also kills head lice and nits.

Can head lice live in pillows? ›

Since head lice must feed on the scalp of a host to thrive, they cannot dwell on pillows or linens. Lice can only live for 48 hours after dropping off a host scalp. While lice can spread from one person to another's head if they share bedding, the odds of them doing so is unlikely.

Will lice ever go away on its own? ›

Do lice go away on their own? While head lice infestations can be frustrating and inconvenient, it's important to note that they don't resolve on their own and require treatment for elimination. "Without intervention, lice can reproduce and persist," says Dr.

How long are lice contagious? ›

What makes someone contagious with head lice is having a mature, egg-laying adult female louse on your head that could travel to another head. After the first treatment, when the egg-laying lice are eliminated, you are no longer contagious.

Do dead lice fall out of hair? ›

The female louse secretes this glue-like substance when she lays her eggs to protect them until they hatch. The glue hardens upon secretion and does not dissipate when a nit dies. For that reason, dead lice remain cemented onto the hair shaft until you manually or chemically remove them or the hair grows out.

How long do lice live on a mattress? ›

Without a host, lice can survive on your mattress for up to 48 hours, but during this time, they can continue to lay eggs and multiply, which can lead to a more severe infestation. It's essential to take action to get rid of lice and prevent their multiplication.

What kills 100% of lice? ›

Tea Tree Oil. Though many people are sensitive to tea tree oil, it has been shown to be effective at killing lice. One study showed a 100% mortality rate after 30 minutes of treatment. A tea tree oil-scented spray or shampoo may be useful in preventing reinfestation.

What smell kills lice instantly? ›

Coconut, tea tree oil, lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon grass, and peppermint are scents popularly believed to repel lice. Using any coconut scented shampoo and conditioner is an easy way to increase your defense. At 1% concentration, tea tree oil killed 100% of head lice after 30 minutes.

How to clean a house after lice? ›

Wash items on a hot water cycle and dry on high heat for at least twenty minutes. The heated wash and dry will remove and kill any lice left. Carpets, mattresses, and flooring can simply be vacuumed and cleaned with everyday cleaning products.

How long can lice live on a hairbrush? ›

The CDC also advises against sharing hairbrushes. Adult head lice can survive for 2 days and nits for around 1 week on a hairbrush. Soaking combs or hairbrushes in hot water of at least 130°F (54.4°C) for 5–10 minutes will kill any lice and nits.

How to get rid of head lice permanently? ›

Store-bought treatments to get rid of head lice permanently
  1. KP24. This is a medicated lotion and foam that provides fast and effective treatment. ...
  2. Moov Head Lice Solution. Moov is another popular choice. ...
  3. NitWits Absolute Head Lice Solution. ...
  4. Banlice® Mousse. ...
  5. Tea Tree Oil. ...
  6. Vinegar. ...
  7. Mouthwash. ...
  8. Olive Oil.
Feb 11, 2019

How do you tell how long you've had lice? ›

If you see nits and nymphs but no adult lice, you may have had lice for around 2 weeks. Adult lice are the size of sesame seeds. Newly formed nymphs are the size of poppy seeds and very hard to see. If you see adult lice in addition to nits and nymphs, you may have an ongoing infestation of 3 weeks or more.

Can you get lice out of your hair by yourself? ›

Wet-combing involves spraying conditioner on wet strands of hair, using a fine-toothed comb, and, in some cases, a magnifying glass to clearly examine each strand of hair and remove the individual lice. Although the wet-combing method can be effective, it's also time-consuming and requires some patience to complete.

Can I get rid of lice without treatment? ›

What do I do? The safest, most effective treatment is careful combing to remove lice and their eggs. Combing should be repeated every night for at least 12 days, as nits will continue to hatch for 8-11 days. Diligent, careful combing alone can be effective, eliminating any need for a pesticidal product.

How to cure lice in hair at home? ›

6 home remedies for lice
  1. Anise oil. Anise oil may coat and suffocate lice. ...
  2. Olive oil. Olive oil offers similar benefits to anise oil, potentially suffocating lice and preventing them from returning. ...
  3. Coconut oil. Coconut oil is a popular treatment for dry skin and hair. ...
  4. Tea tree oil. ...
  5. Petroleum jelly. ...
  6. Mayonnaise.

How do you tell if you have lice on yourself? ›

Common signs and symptoms of lice include:
  1. Intense itching on the scalp, body or in the genital area.
  2. A tickling feeling from movement of hair.
  3. The presence of lice on your scalp, body, clothing, or pubic or other body hair. ...
  4. Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts. ...
  5. Sores on the scalp, neck and shoulders.
Jun 30, 2022

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Melvina Ondricka

Last Updated:

Views: 6525

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Melvina Ondricka

Birthday: 2000-12-23

Address: Suite 382 139 Shaniqua Locks, Paulaborough, UT 90498

Phone: +636383657021

Job: Dynamic Government Specialist

Hobby: Kite flying, Watching movies, Knitting, Model building, Reading, Wood carving, Paintball

Introduction: My name is Melvina Ondricka, I am a helpful, fancy, friendly, innocent, outstanding, courageous, thoughtful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.