Guide to Head Lice Treatment

Treating head lice has changed now that pesticide-resistant lice, or super lice, are commonplace. Twenty years ago, getting rid of lice was as simple as going down to the drugstore, getting a prescription for pesticide-based lice shampoo, and washing everyone’s hair.

Now, there are a variety of options. The main differences are the cost, the treatment mechanism: manual vs. chemical, and the amount of time and work required to get the job done.

Many parents are turning away from pesticides and toward professional lice services.

Mom-and-Pop (but mostly Mom) lice removal companies have sprouted up in response to increased demand for fast and effective head lice treatment.

Many of these were started by a mother who struggled with head lice, found a solution for her family, started helping other families in her community, and eventually opened a business.

They may call themselves a lice salon, clinic, service, or center, but they all do the same thing. The important differences are:

  • In-home vs. public treatment
  • Flat fee vs. hourly
  • Treatment time required
  • Guarantee terms
  • Number of appointments required
  • Method: chemical, manual (combing or hot-air device), or combination

The advantage of a service is that you can be confident you’re lice free immediately, and often guaranteed free re-treatment if your family gets it again. The major downside is the cost, which can vary widely.

Over-the-Counter Options

Drugstores, supermarkets, online retailers, and even lice services offer do-it-yourself lice kits. These may come in the form of shampoos, lotions, oils, sprays, and include combs or even magnifying glasses.

The problem with most of these kits is that they all rely on lice combing to get the job done, which is a skill. Amateur lice combing can be unpleasant for you and your children, requires a lot of time, and the combs included in kits are often not up to the task.

You can get rid of lice with a kit, but it will not happen quickly. It requires numerous hours spread over days of combing.

If you decide to try an over-the-counter product, look for one with a money-back guarantee, and a lice comb with tightly spaced metal teeth at least 1.5 inches long.

Prescription Medications

There is only one prescription treatment that kills both live lice and their eggs. The rest are non-ovicidal or only partially kill the eggs. If the eggs are not destroyed or removed, lice will continue their infestation.

Natroba kills both adult lice and their eggs. The downside is that it is a pesticide called spinosad, and pregnant women, infants, and children may be at risk.1

It costs around $214-275 per treatment per person, is not covered by most insurance plans, and requires paying for a doctor visit to get a prescription.2,3

Guidelines for Lice Treatment

  • Follow the instructions carefully.

  • Do not use multiple chemical treatments without consulting a doctor.

  • All lice and eggs must be destroyed or removed to ensure you are lice free.

  • All non-prescription medications require lice combing.

  • For best results, all family members and anyone close to the household should be checked and treated in one session.

  • If one fertilized female louse or two eggs remain on anyone in your family, lice can re-infest everyone.

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