If you find live lice, firstly, don't worry. Head lice are a normal part of life and are nothing to be embarrassed, panicked or ashamed about.
How to get rid of headlice
There are FOUR principle types of head lice treatment:
1. Non-pesticide treatments
2. Pesticide treatments
3. Wet combing with conditioner
4. Alternative treatments
Non pesticide treatments
Non-pesticide lotions work in a different way from conventional pesticide treatments. They do not work by poising the louse but by attacking it physically. This physical mode of action means there is no known mechanism for the lice to build up a resistance.
Pesticide treatments work by poisoning the louse. There is evidence that head lice have developed resistance to some pesticide chemical agents. In part, this is a result of inappropriate and excessive use of these agents over a long period.*
*Downs, AMR, Stafford, K.A., Hunt, C.P. et al (2002) Widespread insecticide resistance in head lice to over-the-counter pediculocides in England and the emergence of carbaryl resistance. British Journal of Dermatology 146 (1) , 88-93
Wet combing with conditioner
Some people may wish to remove lice physically, the most established of these methods is wet combing with conditioner. A number of devices are also available for use on dry hair only, which claim to electronically aid the removal of lice but evidence of effectiveness of these devices is limited.
Concerns over the use of chemical preparations to treat head lice are common and a number of products based on alternative approaches are currently on the market. Unfortunately many of the alternative products, i.e. tea tree oil, lack published evidence or a product license on which to assess effectiveness.
Applying a head lice treatment
- Treatment should only be applied if a living, moving louse has been found - never 'just in case'
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions and ensure the treatment is left on for the recommended time
- When applying treatment, cover the full length of the hair if specified in the treatment instructions
- Keep the lotion out of the eyes and off the face – don’t use a hair dryer unless instructions say that you can, and keep away from flames, stoves, cigarettes and other sources of heat
- Most treatments require them to be repeated seven days after the first application to kill any nymphs which have hatched since the first treatment was applied. The checking process should be repeated a couple of days after treatment to ensure that all the head lice have been killed.
There are many myths surrounding head lice that still exist, click here for the more common misconceptions and the reality.
It is best to check for head lice using a comb that’s made for the purpose. Find out more…