How to Treat Head Lice

Head lice are most common among children and are highly contagious, but there's no need to panic: They do not pose any serious medical threat and are certainly treatable.

You will need

  • A magnifying glass
  • A doctor to consult
  • A well-lit room (or outside light)
  • A fine-tooth comb (or louse comb)
  • A blow-dryer
  • Insecticidal shampoo
  • Petroleum jelly
  • A washing machine and detergent
  • Freezer
  • Television

Step 1 Assess the situation Assess the situation: If you or someone in your family has an itchy scalp, check carefully for lice with a magnifying glass. Treatment should be considered only when active lice or unhatched eggs are observed. If you receive a notice from school that another student has head lice take it seriously.

Step 2 Check everyone in the household When you’ve spotted active lice or unhatched eggs, check everyone in the household. Lice are highly contagious, so everyone should avoid contact with the infested area or anything that might also be infested, like a comb, hat, or linens.

Step 3 Consult a doctor Consult a doctor for any specific instructions and recommendations.

Step 4 Comb In a well-lit room or outdoors—but not on carpeting—comb the scalp using a fine-tooth or louse comb and a magnifying glass. Clean the comb frequently to remove lice or eggs, and groom daily until no lice are discovered for two weeks. The first nit removal should take 1-2 hours to properly remove the nits. Start by parting the hair into 4 sections.

Step 5 Heat the lice out Heat the lice out. Using a blow-dryer can sometimes kill lice and their eggs, but be careful not to burn the scalp.

Step 6 Treat with insecticidal shampoo Treat with insecticidal shampoo. You should always consult a doctor before taking this approach, and read the labels on these products carefully.

Step 7 Apply petroleum jelly to hair on face If infestations have spread to eyebrows, eyelashes, or facial hair, apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly these areas—never use chemicals. You may also want to sleep with olive oil in the scalp for at least 10 hours. This will help kill the nits.

Step 8 Treat clothing and linens Treat clothing and linens. Gather clothes, pillowcases, hats, and sheets that have been in contact with the infested individuals, and dry them for a least 1 hour. The heat helps kill the nits.

Step 9 Treat the rest of the house Treat the rest of the house. Clean any combs or brushes that have come in contact with the infestation, and try freezing any toys or other objects that cannot be washed. Put objects that can’t be washed in sealed plastic bags for 2 weeks.

Step 10 Treat again ten days later Ten days after treating the scalp with an insecticide, treat again. Because insecticides have a limited ability to remove eggs, any lice that may have hatched in the meantime should be treated at this time.

Step 11 Check with your doctor to make sure you have successfully eliminated the head lice.