In the GP surgery blog 7 - Head lice

Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 09:15
Dr Paul Williams

There can’t be many of us who haven’t come into close contact with head lice in our lives either personally or through our children. They are very common and can be really quite difficult to eradicate, if only through re-infection from untreated people. In the past chemical insecticide lotions were the mainstay of treatment but just as bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics so the head louse has grown resistant to the chemicals we use. Also in the past lotions were available on prescription but for several years now doctors have been advised by the NHS not to prescribe these chemicals.

So how can you get rid of them?

The first thing to do is to physically remove the lice. This is done by wet combing; this is done by shampooing the hair and then applying conditioner. Before rinsing it off divide the hair into small sections and thoroughly comb it from scalp to end using a nit removal comb. Any nits or lice picked up on the comb should be wiped off on a tissue before combing again. The whole head should be done twice each time. There are a variety of combs on the market and your pharmacist will be able to help you choose one. You really need to do this process every four days until three successive combing exercises have been clear of lice.

The second way is to use physical insecticides. These contain chemicals which do things to the live lice which cause them to die shortly thereafter. There are several on the market and all work in different ways, not everyone can use them all so again seek guidance from your pharmacist. In most cases you will need to repeat the treatment after 9 days as these usually on work on live lice not their eggs.

The last method is with the chemical insecticides but these are really not recommended anymore due to the high degree of resistance in our endemic lice.

I have come across various home remedies for head lice over the years. However, there is no real evidence any of them work; so best steer clear of things like mayonnaise, garlic paste and white wine vinegar, unless that is of course you plan on eating your hair afterwards!