Don't Panic When Your Kid Gets Head Lice

How to treat your child's head lice

Mother using lice comb on daughters hair
Letizia Le Fur/ONOKY/Getty Images

Panicking won't kill lice and will likely lead to over-treatment and anxiety in your child who is worrying that he has "bugs" in his hair. So, calm down.

Instead of worrying when you think your child has lice, you should follow some simple steps to treat the lice on your child and remove the insects and their eggs from your home.

Head Lice Treatment

Treat your child's head lice with an anti-lice shampoo, such as Nix or Rid, which you can buy at the drugstore or online.

Follow the directions on the label.

Continue to remove nits (the eggs) from your child's head using the comb provided, even if you have to check his head each night for a week or more until you get them all.​

Nits hatch in 7 to 10 days and develop into an egg-laying adult in another 7 to 10 days. Since anti-lice shampoos don't kill nits, you usually have to retreat the child in 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched head lice and break this lice life cycle. Many experts now recommend doing your second head lice treatment on the ninth day.

Getting Lice Out Of the House

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only cleaning things the infected children have been in contact within the 24 to 48 hours before treatment, not everything in your house.

Start by washing his clothing and bedding in hot water and then putting them in the dryer on high until completely dry. Then, vacuum to remove lice and nits from furniture, carpets, stuffed animals, and his car seat, etc.

Anything that you can't wash, put in a large, sealed plastic bag for a few weeks -- where they will eventually starve and die.

We Can't Get Rid of the Lice

See your pediatrician if you can't get rid of your child's lice, instead of treating your child over and over on your own or shaving your child's head.

Your pediatrician can confirm that your child still does have live lice, teach you how to identify and remove nits, and may prescribe a prescription strength anti-lice shampoo, such as Ovide (0.5 percent malathion) or Lindane.

Lice - What You Need To Know

In addition to learning more about lice, understand that you are not alone. Head lice infestations are common, affecting up to 12 million kids each year. You should also know that:

  • Head lice aren't dangerous and are not a sign that your kids have poor hygiene or that they are going to catch a disease.
  • Kids can return to school after treatment even if they still have nits. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "no healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice."
  • Check other family members for lice, but only treat those that show signs of an active lice infestation.
  • Ulesfia (Benzyl Alcohol Lotion 5 percent) was recently approved to treat children over six months of age with lice. Unlike other head lice shampoos which are mostly pesticides, Ulesfia is a water-soluble gel that works to suffocate head lice.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Head Lice. PEDIATRICS Vol. 126 No. 2 August 2010, pp. 392-403