If head lice have made an appearance in your family, you'll be keen to know how to get rid of these unwelcome visitors. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for head lice.
You can treat head lice (singular louse) with an over-the-counter topical treatment specifically designed to treat head lice. (Topical treatments are treatments that are applied directly to the surface that is affected, rather than taken like a pill.) These products are available at your pharmacy. You can ask your pharmacist to help you choose a product, tell you how to use your selected product, and answer any questions you may have.
In Canada, there are 2 types of topical treatments: those that contain traditional insecticides, and an innovative type of treatment that does not contain traditional insecticides.
Treatments containing traditional insecticides
These products contain traditional insecticides that kill lice by damaging their nervous systems.
Products containing traditional insecticides include:
- pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide (found in R+C® shampoo/conditioner and Pronto® Lice Killing Shampoo)
- permethrin (Nix® or Kwellada-P®)
Pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide have been approved for children 2 years of age and older. Permethrin can be used for children 2 years of age and older. Lindane is no longer available in Canada due to the potential risks of serious neurotoxicity and bone marrow suppression. If you have any questions about these treatments, talk to your pharmacist.
When choosing a treatment, it's also important to think about resistance. Resistance means that the lice have changed their genetic makeup and can now survive a treatment that used to be effective. In some areas, resistance has been reported. Check with your pharmacist to learn more about whether head lice are resistant to any treatments in your area.
Treatments containing no traditional insecticides
There are other products that contain no traditional insecticides, including:
- isopropyl myristate/cyclomethicone
Isopropyl myristate/cyclomethicone solution (Resultz™) works by dissolving the wax that covers the louse's outer skeleton, which dehydrates and kills the parasite.It is clinically proven to be effective for treating head lice.
Isopropyl myristate is widely used in lower concentrations in skincare and cosmetic products such as lipstick, bath oil, and moisturizers. As a head lice treatment, isopropyl myristate 50% is colourless and odourless. It can be used for people aged 4 years and older.
Here's how to use it:
- Use towels to protect the eyes from the treatment and stop clothes from getting wet.
- Apply the product to dry hair and massage it into the hair until the scalp and hair are thoroughly wet with the product, especially at the sides and back of the neck.
- Use larger amounts of the product for longer hair.
- Leave it on the hair for 10 minutes.
- Rinse the hair with warm water.
- Wash the hair if desired.
- Repeat the treatment one week later.
Use a nit comb daily between the first and second treatments to remove the dead nits.
The second treatment helps kill any new lice that may have hatched after the first treatment. After the first treatment, check the entire family daily for lice until the second treatment. After that, check daily for 2 weeks.
Dimeticone solution works by affecting the insect's breathing apparatus and is effective against lice, nymphs and egg embryos. This product is not recommended for use with children less than 2 years of age.
Here's how to use it:
- Spray all over hair and massage in well.
- Leave it on for at least 30 min, then comb well into hair.
- Leave it on overnight, then wash it out with shampoo.
- Repeat treatment in 8 to 10 days.
- Use 10 mL for short hair, 18 mL for shoulder-length hair, 22 mL for long hair, or 34 mL for very long hair.
Both treatments have demonstrated efficacy and lack of toxicity in the treatment of head lice.
Your pharmacist can also help you choose a treatment that's appropriate for your family. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions about head lice treatment.
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