Lice: Removing Nits From Hair
British Columbia Specific Information
Head lice are tiny, greyish brown, wingless insects that live on the scalp, feeding on human blood. They lay eggs, also called nits, which stick to strands of hair very close to the scalp. Anyone can get lice.
Treatment should be considered only if head lice or live nits are found. Head lice will not go away without treatment. All medications for head and pubic lice are available over the counter without a prescription from your doctor. This includes both oral medications and medications that you can apply to the surface of your body (topical).
For more information on head lice including how they spread, possible symptoms, and treatment options, see HealthLinkBC File #06 Head Lice.
Lice eggs (nits) stick to the hair and can be hard to remove. After treatment, some nits may survive. You don't have to remove all of the nits. But some people use a comb to remove nits after using lice medicine, because they don't like the look of nits in the hair.
The recommended way to treat lice is to use over-the-counter medicated creams, lotions, or shampoos that kill lice. After you rinse the medicine from your hair, you can use a fine-toothed comb to remove nits. The combs are often packaged with over-the-counter lice shampoos. A flea comb that's made for dogs and cats will also work. This is called wet combing. Comb for at least 15 minutes (until you find no more lice or eggs).
If two treatments of medicine do not kill the lice, you can try wet combing every few days. This process can take a lot of time, and you must make sure to get every louse and all eggs. Stop 2 to 3 weeks after the last session in which you found an adult louse.
Other Works Consulted
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Parasites: Lice. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/index.html.
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
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