Don’t Let Lice Ruin Your Day: Effective Treatment For The Whole Family

Updated: 9/21/23

Head lice can easily ruin anyone’s day, especially if you have a family to take care of. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for kids to get head lice in school or during playtime with other children. Don’t let an infestation of lice cause chaos and distress for your family; there are many effective treatments available that can help control the spread and provide relief from this uninvited guest. In this blog post we will discuss the different types of treatment methods that exist, how to choose what may be right for you, and simple prevention tips so you can keep these pesky critters away from your doorsteps!

What are Lice?

It is a common problem among preschool and elementary school-aged children. It is estimated that around 6 to 12 million lice infestations occur in the United States annually among children aged 3 to 11 years. They are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects (about 2-3 millimeters long) found living among human hairs and usually feed on small amounts of blood drawn from the human scalp. It can also be found elsewhere on the body including the pubic area and long facial hair like beards. They are easily spread through personal contact and the sharing of belongings like caps, combs and brushes. Anyone who comes into contact with the infected person is at the greatest risk. They usually move by crawling — they cannot fly or hop.

Lice can be treated. The affected person, infected family members and the home should all be treated. A medicated shampoo, a cream rinse or lotion might be recommended to help kill the them. The best form of treatment would be to kill the them and their eggs.

Getting a lice infestation does not indicate poor hygiene. It has nothing to do with personal hygiene as anyone can be infested with lice.

Are Lice Contagious?

Lice infestations can be more than just bothersome; they can be incredibly contagious. Whether you’ve experienced an infestation before or are simply trying to prevent one, it’s important to understand the contagious nature of these pesky insects.

Are Lice Black?

To begin with, they are tiny, wingless insects that live on the scalp and feed on human blood. They are about the size of a sesame seed and can be difficult to spot. Lice can range in color from light brown to dark brown, but they are not black. They are transparent when they hatch from eggs and can appear grayish or yellowish when they have recently fed on blood.

There are a few reasons why people may think that lice are black. One reason is that the nits, or lice eggs, can appear black or dark brown. Nits are often mistaken for dandruff, but a closer look will reveal that they are oval and attached to the hair shafts. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has it, be sure to thoroughly check the hair for nits, as this is a telltale sign of an infestation.

Another reason why people may think that lice are black is that they are often associated with dirt and poor hygiene. While it is true that lice can be found in dirty and unclean environments, they do not discriminate based on cleanliness. In fact, anyone can get lice, regardless of how clean or dirty their hair is.

Can Lice Kill You?

While it is not life-threatening, they can cause significant discomfort and irritation. When they feed on human blood through biting the scalp, it can result in itching, irritation, and inflammation.

Types of Lice

There are three types of lice — head lice, body lice and pubic lice. They are all from the same parasite family, but are of a different species. Only the body lice are known to spread disease.

Head Lice

They are found on the scalp. They attach their eggs to the base of the hair shafts. These eggs can be difficult to see and usually take about nine days to hatch. They are found worldwide and are the most common in young children who attend day care or elementary school. Head lice are most common among young girls aged between 5 to 11 years — this is because socially and culturally girls tend to wear their hair long, which increases the likelihood of contracting them. Boys who wear their hair long are equally likely to contract head lice. Head lice can easily be seen at the nape of the neck and ears.

Body Lice

They mostly thrive in clothing and on bedding and move onto the skin to feed. Body lice mostly affect the individuals who fail to bathe or launder clothing regularly. They can also infect people living in cramped, crowded conditions like military barracks. Body lice can transmit severe health diseases such as relapsing fever, trench fever and typhus.

Pubic Lice

These are also known as crabs. They are mostly found on pubic hair and skin and anal areas. They are typically transmitted among adolescents and adults through sexual contact. Pubic lice can also be transmitted to young children by close contact with parents. Though rare, pubic lice can also be found on coarse body hair like that of the eyelashes, chest and eyebrows.

Symptoms of Lice

Lice move very quickly, so it is not always easy to detect them. Some people might not be aware of a lice infestation because they might not have any symptoms at all.


This is the most common symptom of a lice infestation. There may be extreme itchiness in the scalp. The itchiness is due to an allergic reaction by the body to the saliva of the it introduced through the bites.

Sores on the Head

These are caused by too much scratching. Scratching is usually triggered when they move around by crawling. The itching may not usually begin right away as it depends on the sensitivity of a person’s skin to the bites. It can take a week for scratching to start, especially in young children. These sores can develop an infection. People who get a scalp infection should see a doctor.

Visible Lice

Lice on the scalp, clothing, body, pubic area or other body hair can be visible. Adult lice can be the size of a sesame seed or slightly larger. They can be difficult to spot because of their small size, quick movement and the difficulty of identifying something through hair.

Lice Eggs (Nits) on the Hair Shafts

Nits are tiny and may be mistaken for dandruff. However, unlike dandruff, nits cannot be easily brushed out of hair. Incubating nits may be difficult to spot because they are so small. They can be spotted more easily around the hairline of the neck and around the ears. However, it can be easier to spot empty nits as they are lighter in color and are further from the scalp. It is also good to note that the presence of nits does not necessarily mean there is an active lice infestation.

Swollen Lymph Nodes or Glands

This can be due to a bodily allergic reaction to the saliva of the it. Additionally, if scratching has broken the skin then there can be bacteria spread from the nails into the blood stream to cause an infection.

Symptoms of Lice

Body Lice Bites

These can cause a thickened or darkened skin, especially around the groin or waist area. This is experienced by people infested with body lice, especially if it has been there for a long time. People with body lice usually have tiny, red, pinpoint holes in the skin. They may also have hives and scratch marks if there was intense scratching that causes a break in the skin. This can also cause a bacterial infection. Symptoms of body lice bites are more common on the abdomen, shoulders and buttocks.

Pubic Lice Bites

These bites cause bluish gray spots on the affected areas like the chest, thighs and buttocks. They can also cause the lymph nodes to swell. If pubic lice infest the eyelashes, they can cause eye itching, irritation and a burning sensation around the eye.

Causes of Lice

Individuals can get lice infestation if they come into contact with lice or their eggs. These eggs normally hatch in about seven days. Since they cannot fly or walk, they can be spread through contact only.

Sexual Contact

This can especially help to spread pubic lice, and most commonly affects adults. Pubic lice in children could be an indication of sexual exposure or abuse.

Sharing of Personal Items or Close Contact

Sharing among friends or family members can lead to it. These items include combs, brushes, clothing, headphones, towels, pillows and blankets. Close interaction among children or family members (hugging, for example) can also lead to it.

Contact with Contaminated Soft Fabrics

Transmission of lice through soft furnishings like couches and bedding is common because, although they can only live for about 24 hours away from a host, the eggs take 7-10 days to hatch. So, if an infected person has come into contact with a soft furnishing, it will take around 12 days for them and the eggs laid there to die.

Conditions Similar

There are certain health conditions or things in the hair that may be visually similar to head lice or cause similar symptoms.

Hair Casts

They are white, tube-like debris found around the hair shaft. Their length usually ranges from 2 to 8 mm. They are rare and are often associated with other skin conditions. They can slide easily with the hair during combing, unlike nits, which stick and are hard to remove. Hair casts can be removed with a fine-toothed comb or coal tar shampoo. An individual with light-colored hair should use coal tar shampoo with care as it can discolor their hair.


Not only can dandruff look similar to head lice, but it can also cause similar symptoms like itching of the scalp. Dandruff is a scalp condition whereby the skin pulls away from the scalp in white flakes. Unlike nits, dandruff lies on the scalp and often comes away easily.


Scabies is caused by small insects that dig into the skin and cause irritation. They usually affect the wrist, ankles and fingers rather than the scalp and head.

Diagnosing Lice Infestation

It is possible to detect head lice by looking closely through the scalp and hair for nits and adult lice. However, looking for an adult can be difficult because they are few and run away quickly.

If there are visible nits close to the scalp, then that would be a confirmation that the person is infested. If the nits are a quarter of an inch from the scalp, that would signify an older infestation.

Which Lice Treatment is Best?

There are several lice treatment methods available without a prescription. Treating it can sometimes be challenging due to factors like the severity of the infestation, lice that are resistant to some forms of treatment like shampoos and re-infestation due to a workplace or school with a lice problem. When this happens, more aggressive approaches like removal of nits, frequent shampoo washing with a lice shampoo and consulting a health professional should be done.

Anti-itch treatments are available, but they can only offer temporary relief from the itching without addressing the underlying lice infestation.

Over-the-counter lice treatments are widely available and typically contain insecticides that kill the it and their eggs. These treatments come in various forms, such as shampoos, mousses, and creams, and often require multiple applications over a few weeks to be effective. Some popular brands include Nix, RID, and LiceMD. While these treatments can be effective, they also come with potential side effects such as skin irritation and allergic reactions. It’s essential to follow the instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Prescription Lice Treatments

For more severe cases of lice infestation or cases that do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, prescription lice treatments may be necessary. These treatments contain stronger insecticides and require a prescription from a healthcare provider. Some common brands include Sklice and Ulesfia. Prescription lice treatments also come with potential side effects such as skin irritation and allergic reactions, so it’s crucial to follow the instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Natural Lice Treatments

If you prefer to avoid chemicals and insecticides, several natural lice treatments are also available. These treatments typically contain natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, and coconut oil, that suffocate and repel the lice. Some popular brands include Fairy Tales, SoCozy, and Hair Fairies. While these treatments are generally considered safe, they may not be as effective as over-the-counter or prescription treatments. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Treating Soft Furnishing and Clothes

To prevent re-infestation, it is important to also treat the clothes, bedding and soft furnishings of the infected person. This can be done through medicated washing liquid or washing and drying on very high heat (where it is viable to do so, read the label to ensure you don’t damage the clothes).

Supplements for Lice

Pure Biotin Powder

It is believed that this supplement, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is good at promoting healthy hair, skin and nails. A single serving of pure biotin powder is small, but very potent. Good measurements should be done when taking this supplement.

Coconut Oil

This is a natural, anti-lice treatment oil. It is believed that the lauric acid found in coconut oil can help kill them. It is good for people who cannot tolerate the stronger form of treatment. Coconut oil is also very effective when coupled with anise spray.


Garlic is another excellent herbal remedy that can help treat lice infestation. It contains sulfur, which helps kill the it and their eggs. Mix minced garlic and a few tablespoons of coconut oil together to make a paste and apply it to the scalp and hair. Wrap the head with a towel or a shower cap for at least an hour. It is important to note that garlic can leave a strong odor on the hair, so it should be washed carefully.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil can help kill it and their eggs or nits. It also helps relax your mind, which is good for a sound sleep. Before applying lavender oil, dilute it with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. The ratio should be one teaspoon of lavender oil with two tablespoons of carrier oil. Apply this mixture directly to the scalp and hair, paying attention to the hair ends where nits can be found. After application, cover the head with a shower cap and leave it for at least an hour.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is one of the most popular herbal remedies for lice treatment. It is a potent antiseptic and has been used for centuries to treat many skin problems. To use it for lice treatment, take a few drops of tea tree oil and mix it with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. Apply this mixture to the scalp and hair and leave it on for at least an hour. The best way to use tea tree oil for lice treatment is to combine it with other herbal remedies like lavender oil or neem oil.

Although more research is required to determine how effective tea tree oil is in treating lice, one study published in Parasitology Research claimed that it may have the ability to kill them in the nymph and adult stages of its development.

The Bottom Line

Any individual, especially young children, and parents of young children are likely to come into contact with lice. This is because school-going children are the most affected when it comes to lice infestation. Lice infestation does not necessarily indicate poor hygiene as everyone is susceptible to infection.

Head lice infestations can be frustrating and time-consuming to deal with, but with the right treatment methods, they are manageable. Over-the-counter treatments, natural remedies, manual removal, prescription medications, and prevention methods can all be effective at eradicating head lice infestations. Remember to always follow the instructions for any treatments you use, and be patient during the removal process. With diligence and consistency, you can take control of lice infestations and prevent them from returning.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Author: Ryan Quigley
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.