Head Lice

Head lice are extremely common in Australia among primary aged children. No treatment can prevent head lice but keeping hair clean and regular checks can prevent them spreading. They are not dangerous and there are two main treatment options to remove head lice: mechanical removal and chemical removal.

Head lice is an itchy infection caused by the louse Pediculus humanus var capitis. The female louse lays eggs (nits) which are glued to the human hairs. The eggs hatch within six days and mature into adults in about 10 days. They live about a month.

Head lice spread from person to person by direct contact, or by sharing of combs and hats. The lice are brown and about 2mm long whereas the eggs are white and unlike dandruff cannot be brushed off. Itching may be minor to intense, especially at the base of the neck.


There are two main treatment options to remove head lice: mechanical removal (physically combing and removing) and chemical removal.

The current chemically recommended topical treatment for head lice are:

  • Maldison 0.5% (K.P.24) which comes as a lotion to be left on the hair overnight and shampoo to wash hair in the morning
  • Permethrin 1% (Liceblaster) a ten-minute application method
  • Pyrethrins 0.165% with piperonyl butaxide. Several brands available.

There are questions as to the efficacy of some herbal products (eg tea tree oil, lavender oil)

Resistance to head lice seems to be an increasing problem.

The recommended treatment for head lice resistant to topical insecticides is a thick conditioner applied thickly to the scalp and hair for eight hours on treatment days 1,2,5,9,13,17 and 21 to coincide with the life cycle of the louse. Then comb through with a fine comb.

Information courtesy ‘Australian Pharmacist’

Note: This article provides general health information and in no way constitutes medical advice. Ideas and information expressed may not be suitable for everyone. Readers wishing to obtain medical advice should contact their own doctor.