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Close up of a parent's hands combing through a child's hair

Head Lice Treatment and Prevention

Author: CHKD Medical Group
Published Date: Monday, March 27, 2017

By Dr. Douglas Mitchell, Norfolk Pediatrics

Head lice are a common problem in preschool and elementary school-age children but they do not spread disease.

Lice spread easily through head-to-head contact and by sharing hats, scarves, coats and sports helmets. Sharing combs, brushes and towels may also spread lice.

Anyone can get lice, even those with good health habits and who frequently wash their hair. To prevent head lice, make sure your child knows not to share personal items like hats or combs and that individual cubbies are always a better choice than shared hooks at school and daycare. The best method to prevent the spread of lice in the school setting is to avoid hooks for hats and clothing. Jackets and hats are best stored in lockers, cubbies, or individual bags. Pediatricians also recommend parents regularly check for head lice at home.

If you discover that your child has lice, do not panic. Check the heads of everyone at home and treat those with live lice or nits. A child may return to school immediately after treatment. There is no need for a “no nit” policy. Check local school policies regarding a child’s return to school after having lice.

How to treat head lice at home:

Try one percent permethrin or pyrethrin products that you can purchase over the counter and follow the instructions for treatment.

It is recommended to treat a second time 7-10 days later. If the second treatment is not successful, call your pediatrician.

Lice rarely survive off the scalp for more than 48 hours so you’ll want to wash, soak and dry items used in the past three days at temperatures over 130 degrees F to get rid of stray lice or nits. Seal anything that can’t be washed in plastic bags for two weeks.

This clinical report by the AAP provides additional information for treating head lice at home.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.