Head lice infestations, also termed as nits or pediculosis capitis, is a common condition of tiny willow buds affecting the head scalp. The condition mostly affects pre-school children attending childcare, primary school children, and the household members of infested children.
The number of cases of human pediculosis infestations has increased globally since the 1960s, reaching hundreds of millions each year. There is no treatment or product as such that ensures 100% destruction of the hatched lice (nymphs) and the eggs after a single treatment.
There are a variety of treatments with varying degrees of effectiveness and success. They are either over the counter or prescription options and include lotions, shampoos, and rinses. Many of them have lost their efficacy because of the resistance lice have evolved.
There are several prescribed lice treatments (insecticides) available in the market. These include;
Lindane is a shampoo and kills the creepy parasites and their eggs by suffocating their nervous systems. For treating lice manifestation, apply lindane to clean, dry hair. Coat the hair lightly with the shampoo and leave it on for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, wash and rinse. You can use a nit (young louse) comb to get rid of the dead lice and eggs.
However, Lindane is now discontinued in many countries as it can be easily induced into the skin, causing harm to the human body.
Commonly sold under the brand name Ulesfia, this non-neurotoxic topical treatment actively suffocates the lice and their eggs. FDA has approved 5% Benzyl Alcohol as safe and effective for treating head lice manifestation in children aged 6 or above and, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Apply the shampoo to dry hair and scalp area, and let it settle for 10 to 15 minutes, before rinsing. It is essential to apply the lotion again one week after the first application, as the medicine kills only the adult lice, but not their eggs.
Malathion lotion (Ovide) is both pediculicidal (kill live lice) and partially ovicidal (kills some lice eggs). Treatment with this lotion involves an application to the scalp and hair. It is advisable to leave it on the hair for 8 to 12 hours. Wash hands after applying this medication. Then shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Typically, the first application itself kills lice and also eradicates many lice eggs. Run a fine-toothed nit comb through your wet hair to remove the dead eggs and the dead lice.
However, this lotion contains alcohol, is highly combustible, and can easily catch fire until it dries. Avoid using it in the presence of heating materials, open flame, electric heat, cigarettes, or stove.
Malathion is not recommended for use by pregnant, breastfeeding women, or children younger than two years of age.
The FDA approved treatment of head lice manifestation with ivermectin in February 2012. Sold under the brand name of Sklice, this medication also comes in the lotion form. It works effectively to massacre most hatched lice in a single-use. Potentially there is no need for a second round of treatment or combing to remove the dead nits attached to hair strands. The lotion is applied to dry hair and scalp, left on for ten minutes, and then rinsed off with water. Checking two weeks post-treatment is a good idea, since it takes about that much time for the egg to hatch and the nymph (juvenile lice) to become an adult. Sklice can be used by children aged six months and above.
Spinosad is pediculicidal as well as ovicidal— eliminating the tiny blood sucking parasites and their eggs in all stages—thereby removing the requirement for extensive combing in most cases. Spinosad has less resistance in comparison to the current lice treatments, so the second course of medication is essential only about one-quarter of the time. Due to the nature of its composition, it is safe for children aged four years and over.
Prescription Head Lice Treatment – Takeaway
Prescription lice treatments are more effective in comparison to the over the counter treatments. However, they are pricey. For example, Sklice – a prescription head lice treatment comprising of the pesticide ivermectin, costs around $350 or more for a single tube, and mind it, this is not covered by insurance.
Note that some prescription head lice treatments (pesticides) should be used on children only of certain ages. Also, some Pediculicides need more than a single application, keeping into consideration the directions.