Treatment of Lice

Lice can effectively be treated with home care methods. But one should see a physician if:

- there is skin or scalp infections which have developed from scratching

- there is redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness in the area

- home treatment doesn't work after using over-the-counter medications as directed

- pubic lice are discovered

- If itching continues even after treatment with over-the-counter antihistamines

- lice persist and treatment has failed, and there us a need to re evaluate the anti lice treatment

One should see a physician

If infections from scratching are not improving, are worsening while you are on medications

IF you develop other symptoms develop such as fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting

If you develop an allergic reaction to medications

Exams and Tests

Lice can easily be diagnosed by a physician. The lice or nits may be visible on the scalp, hair, body or genital areas. There are no specific blood or laboratory tests required to make the diagnosis of lice

Once the diagnosis of lice has been made, treatment can be started.

Body lice

For body lice, thorough washing of the body is a requisite.

All linen, clothes, pillows, should be washed in hot water several times.

All disposable items should be destroyed because nits can survive hot washes

IF clothes and the body are thoroughly washed, one may not need the use of anti lice agents.

To ensure complete eradication of lice, the entire family and other household members should be checked and undergo a thorough body wash.

One should generally only be treated if nits or lice are seen. However, most individuals become paranoid and all family members will repeatedly shower and continue to wash the clothes.

All furniture and floors should be thoroughly vacuumed. The vacuum bags must be disposed off immediately.

The use of insecticides and toxic sprays are not needed. They are more toxic to the human than the lice

For the persistent itch, one may use antihistamines which are available over the counter.

Pubic lice

Unlike body lice pubic lice are persistent and difficult to eradicate with simple washes. One has to use anti-lice agents and repeat in 7-10 days.

Combing the hair in the genitals can help remove the nits. One may elect to shave off all the hair in the groin and this may help treat the lice infection

All close contact and sexual partners must be checked and treated if lice or nits are discovered

All clothes, undergarment's bed linen and pillows should be throughly washed in hot water and air dried.

Since lice have an affinity for hair, one should check the eyelashes and eyebrows. If lice or nits are seen, one may use Vaseline to prevent the nits from attaching to the hairs.

For itching, one can use an over the counter antihistamine (Benadryl) for itching.


If any child has had lice, the family should always be on guard and routinely check the child for lice.

For those who participate in safe sex, the risk of acquiring or transmitting lice is minimal.

Wash clothes, bed linens, combs, and brushes to prevent recurrence.

Preventive treatments with anti-lice agents are NOT recommended and can lead to illness and persistent itching


With the above treatments, the majority of individual with lice can be treated permanently.

Lice are generally easier to treat than nits. This is the reason why all nits should be thoroughly searched for and removed. If combing reveals nits, repeated treatment is required

Children can return to their usual activities and school or daycare after the first treatment.

Some schools may not allow children to enter school if nits are still present. If nits are discovered, a repeat treatment is required.

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