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Clinician’s Corner: Head Lice Basics

With school around the corner, one of the biggest concerns parents have is if their child brings home some unwanted friends, those being of the six-legged variety… head lice!  This week we will cover the basics of head lice and next week we can cover the pharmacological treatment.

Life cycles of the human louse:

  • All lice need human warmth to survive.
  • Head and pubic lice spend their entire life cycle on the skin of human host.
  • Head & pubic lice deposit their eggs (known as nits) on hair strands, about 1/4th of an inch from the skin. Each louse develops from eggs (nits) that incubate 1 week. When the eggs hatch the nymphs appear the eggs are small and gray white.
  • Three weeks later the nymphs mature, and the females lay eggs.
  • Each louse survives about 1 month as a mature adult.
  • The female head louse can produce 3-6 eggs per day. Head lice nits can survive 10 days off a body.
  • Nits are easier to find than the live adults. Check around the back of the ears, and the nape of the neck (warmest parts of the body).  Nits are cemented to hair shaft, unlike dandruff that can be brushed away.

Non-Pharmacological treatment of lice:

  • Change clothing daily
  • All household contacts should be inspected and treat if necessary
  • Bed linens and clothes should be washed in hottest water (130degrees or hotter) , and dried on heated air cycle for at least 20 minutes to kill both the lice and nits. Dry cleaning also kills head lice and nits. Only items that have been in contact with the head of the infested person in the 48 hours before treatment should be considered for cleaning.
  • Wash hairbrushes, combs, toys in hot water (130degrees) for at least 10 minutes.
  • Stuffed animals, pillows and articles that can’t be laundered. Stuff into large trash bag, seal the bag, and hold for 2 weeks.
  • All household items, carpets, chairs & couches should be thoroughly vacuumed. OTC sprays such as a-200 or R&C spray are no more effective than vacuuming.

HEAD LICE MYTHS are numerous! 

Your Thompson Pharmacist wants you to know the following FACTS should reassure and inform parents!

  • No significant difference in incidence between various socioeconomic classes or races.
  • Hygiene & hair length are NOT contributing factors.
  • Head lice do not fly or jump. They can crawl about 3 feet.
  • Head lice do NOT carry other disease. (Body lice can)
  • Head lice cannot be contracted from pets.
  • Head does NOT have to be shaved to get rid of the lice.
  • Washing head with brown soap is not effective.
  • Head lice are not related to ticks
  • Hair does NOT fall out because of infestation
  • Head lice can occur at any time of the year.


  • Females are more susceptible to head lice infestations.
  • White children are more susceptible that black children in the United States
  • Pruritus occurs as an allergic reaction to lice saliva injected during feeding
  • The most important truth is that your Thompson Pharmacist is always there to help you. We deal with head lice a lot this time of the year.  Don’t be embarrassed, go Ahead and ASK…. At Thompson Pharmacy it’s all for YOU!