Head Lice: What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them


I was not a happy mom last spring when I got a call from the health clerk at my son’s school saying she had found lice on his little first-grade head.

While I know the critters carry no diseases and don’t cause any actual harm — but for hair. And though washing a favorite stuffed toy may make sense, extreme cleaning or quarantining of all toys and stuffed animals, while sometimes recommended, is not needed. If parents want to avoid washing everything, says Pollack, “a few minutes in the dryer should kill them … but make it 20 just to be sure.”

Treating for suspected nits (as opposed to actual, live bugs), says Pollack, doesn’t make sense because nits are notoriously hard to identify. And nits that are not near the scalp are no longer viable and could be a relic of an old infestation.

Treat Lice Twice

Because some nits are resistant to over-the-counter shampoos, parents should treat infested family members a second time, 10 days after the first treatment. That way, if any nits were able to survive the first treatment and hatch, the second treatment will kill them before they’re old enough to lay eggs.

If you find lice after two treatments with over-the-counter shampoos, the next step should be a visit to your family doctor, who will likely prescribe a more potent medicine.