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Head Lice:
Not Just for Little Kids

Head Lice: What Is It?
Getting Rid of Head Lice
How to Use Lice Shampoo
Banishing the Nits

If you thought head lice was a problem you'd left back in first grade with chunky pencils and lined paper, think again. Children aged 3 to 12 get it most often, but it's not limited to that age group.

Contrary to what you may have heard, getting head lice has nothing to do with bad hygiene or not washing. Anyone can get it and for some reason, girls are more likely to get it than boys are. In most cases, lice are spread through sharing combs, brushes, hats, and even headrests (like on the bus). back to top

Head Lice: What Is It?
Head lice are tiny, wingless insects with three pairs of legs that end in claws. These claws help the lice get a good hold on your scalp. But not for long. Lice hang around just long enough to lay eggs (also called nits). They can lay up to six a day. It's the nits that become your problem. Nits are even tinier than head lice. They attach themselves to the base of your hair with a sort of glue that makes removing them very hard. Aside from being just plain gross, lice make your head itch, which can lead to infection if you scratch and break the skin. back to top

Getting Rid of Head Lice
It used to be that the treatment for nits was a very short, and let's face it, unflattering haircut. These days, there are several shampoos that can kill the nits without sacrificing your locks.

When shopping for a shampoo to treat head lice, look for one of these ingredients:
  • synergized pyrethrins
  • permethrin
  • malathion
  • lindane
Lindane can cause side effects in some people, but only if the product that contains it is used incorrectly. Follow the directions on the package for the right way to use the shampoo. You can buy head lice shampoo at the drugstore.

It's important to realize that these shampoos are pesticides. You should only use them once in a while, and always with an adult's help. Always follow the directions on the bottle or package. Since the shampoos only kill nits that you already have, they can't be used to prevent lice.

Although the shampoos kill the nits, they don't remove all of them. The best way to do this is to have your mom or dad, or another adult, carefully go through your hair with a very fine-toothed comb and remove the nits one by one. Nit combs are available at drugstores. back to top

How to Use Lice Shampoo
Wet your hair and massage the shampoo into your scalp. Leave it on for 5 minutes so that the ingredients can work. Then rinse. Repeat the treatment in 7 to 10 days to make sure you get all of the nits. back to top

Banishing the Nits
Have your parents or another adult go through your hair with a nit comb every day for a few days after the initial "comb out" to make sure all of the nits are removed. To prevent getting lice again, help your parents wash all your bedding and clothing and soak your combs and brushes in hot water. Then, vacuum furniture, carpeting, and toys to make sure that all of the nits are history. back to top

Last Modified Date: 2/6/2001
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