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How do I Eradicate Lice and Nits?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Treatment to eradicate lice and nits focuses on eliminating the lice and their eggs from the hair and scalp, as well as from the home. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help kill lice and nits on a person's head, the bugs and eggs can be removed by hand, and soft surfaces in the home can be cleaned to help get rid of the bugs and prevent new ones from hatching from nits. It is important to try to eradicate lice and nits as soon as possible after someone in your home becomes infected. Lice can be difficult to get rid of completely, and the process may take several weeks.

Over-the-counter and prescription shampoos, lotions, and rinses help eradicate lice and nits from the hair and scalp. It is important to apply these products exactly as directed because they contain chemicals and insecticides. Using medicated products to kill lice can cause scalp and skin problems if they are applied too frequently or if you use too much of the medication. Do not use a hair dryer on hair that has just been treated with medicated products, since some of the ingredients may be flammable. These products should not be used on children under the age of two. Some lice and nits are resistant to insecticides.

If a medicated product fails to completely eradicate lice and nits, or if you need to remove the bugs from a very young child's head, removing them by hand is the best method. It is easiest to remove lice and nits from wet hair, since water temporarily paralyzes the lice. A fine-toothed comb can help you separate fine sections of hair to remove all of the bugs and eggs. Conditioning the hair prior to lice removal will make it easier to comb.

Lice do not live long once they are off the human body, but they can spread to bedding and other soft surfaces. To eradicate lice and nits from your home, wash bedding, clothing, and any other small, soft items in very hot water and dry them on the highest heat setting for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Vacuum all carpets and upholstery, and immediately dispose of the contents of the bag or canister. Soak hair care items such as combs, brushes, headbands, and barrettes, in rubbing alcohol or an over-the-counter medicated lice shampoo for one hour. Do not allow people with lice to share hair care items, pillows, or hats with others to prevent the bugs from spreading.

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