Lice that affect humans are tiny parasitic insects that typically infest either the pubic hair, general body hair or the hair on a person's head. Getting rid of lice can be difficult, especially if the infestation is heavy. Most lice medicine comes in the form of a shampoo that must be used as directed. When choosing the best lice medicine it is necessary to decide between a chemical or a natural treatment. Formulas designed to kill both live lice and eggs are usually the most effective in getting rid of the problem.
A lice infestation is generally visible to the naked eye. A careful examination of head hair, pubic hair or skin on the body should reveal the insects themselves and their tiny, off-white eggs clinging to hair. These eggs are called nits and can be removed with special combs designed to catch them and pull them off. They may also be scraped off the hair shaft with a fingernail. Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed, though immature lice called nymphs can be tiny and extremely hard to see.
Lice medicine for all types of lice can be purchased over the counter. Someone who shows symptoms like extreme redness and itching, sores, blood, pus or obvious infection should see a physician for special prescription medications and other treatments. Some prescription pubic lice formulas can often help clear up the problem faster and minimize itching and discomfort. Body lice can usually be removed by simply bathing with hot water and soap, and by laundering clothes and bedding. A doctor can prescribe body lice medicine or recommend an over-the-counter product if bathing and wearing clean clothes do not help.
Head lice can also be treated with either prescription or over-the-counter products. An important factor in choosing the best lice medicine is the decision whether to choose natural or chemical products. Most lice treatment products contain toxic pesticides and must be applied twice, a week apart, to kill all the lice. Natural remedies for lice usually contain only nontoxic ingredients that are typically designed to smother or dry out the lice and their eggs, rather than poison them. Regardless of the type of lice medicine chosen, it is almost always necessary to remove nits with a special comb to prevent them from later hatching and re-infesting the area.
Preventing lice is not always possible. Cleanliness is important, but someone who is clean can still contract lice from another person. Identifying the lice and using a lice medicine according to its directions, removing nits and cleaning anything like bedding that the lice may have come into contact with will usually clear up an infestation. When lice do not respond to over-the-counter lice medicine, a doctor should be able to prescribe a more powerful treatment.