How to remove lice.

Since lice can only crawl and survive outside your head for 24 hours, most infestations come from direct head-to-head contact. If someone you know has lice, it’s likely they got it from a friend, family member, or stranger with whom they had close contact. Shared items like hats or brushes can also facilitate an infestation.

Common situations that can lead to the transfer of lice include:

  • being in school, for children
  • sitting in close proximity to others
  • sleeping in the same bed, like during slumber party
  • sharing combs, brushes, or towels

A national survey asked moms about removing lice and found that most didn’t have accurate facts. Almost 90 percent of moms believe they need to remove eggs (nits,) and half of moms thought they should apply multiple treatments for head lice.

The CDCTrusted Source says that complete removal of nits is unnecessary, though using a lice comb can help. And when it comes to treatment, you should use only one product at a time.

Read on to learn about the most effective ways to kill head lice and how to keep them away.

TreatmentApplicationNit combing?Caution
Malathion (Ovide)Apply this medication to your hair and then rub it into your hair and scalp. A second treatment may be necessary if lice are seen seven to nine days after treatment.Extremely flammable and should only be used for pregnant or breastfeeding women in consultation with a doctor. Not for children less than 6 years of age.
Ivermectin lotion (Sklice)Apply to dry hair and scalp. Rinse after 10 minutes with water. It’s effective with only one treatment.XNot for children under 6 months.
Spinosad topical suspension (Natroba)Apply to dry hair and scalp. Rinse after 10 minutes with water. Repeated treatment is typically not necessary.Not necessaryNot for children under 6 months of age.
Benzyl alcohol lotion (Ulesfia)Apply this lotion to your scalp and dry hair for 10 minutes, completely saturating the scalp and hair. Rinse with water. Repeat treatment is needed, as it kills the lice but not the eggs.Not for children under 6 months. Safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
LindaneApply shampoo to dry hair and scalp. Leave for four minutes before adding water for a lather. Rinse afterward. Retreatment should be avoided.XLindane causes serious side effects. Use only if other prescriptions fail. Not for premature infants, those with HIV, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, the elderly, or those weighing less than 110 pounds.