Lice are tiny insects that live on the human body or clothes, and feed on our blood. There are three different kinds of lice that affect humans: head lice, pubic lice, and body lice.
Head lice and pubic lice will not go away without treatment. Treatment should only be considered if head lice or live nits are found. 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). Body lice can be gotten rid of by bathing and washing personal items; no medicine is needed.
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.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics