How to treat head lice

Back-to-school can be an itchy time. Medibank's Medical Director shares some advice.

Head lice, most common in children aged between four and 11, is a pesky part of life. Luckily, effective remedies are available, and with the right treatment your child can back at school in a few days.

Dr Ian Boyd, Medibank Medical Director, says it is important for parents to know that anyone can get head lice – almost every parent will need to treat their child’s itchy scalp at some stage. Here, he dispels a few common myths:

  • Myth: Having head lice means your hair is dirty. Head lice can be found in all types and lengths of hair. It is not an indication of how clean or well-groomed a child is.
  • Myth: Head lice jump from head to head. In fact, lice cannot jump, fly or swim. You can only get head lice through head-to-head contact and they can only live for a short time away from the scalp. Pets don’t spread human head lice either.
  • Myth: Head lice make you sick. If your child scratches a lot the skin can become broken and vulnerable to infections. Other than that, head lice are pesky but pretty harmless.

How to know if your child has head lice

Head lice are small and hard to spot on the hair. To remove and identify them, comb through your child’s wet hair with a fine-toothed comb, using lots of conditioner. Comb from root to tip and after each stroke, wipe the comb on a piece of tissue. If your child does have lice you should be able to see one or more little grey or brown insects, around 1-3 mm in length.

How to get rid of head lice

There are two main remedies for head lice you can try:

  1. Insecticide products. Treatment products containing insecticides need to be applied twice, seven days apart, so that any lice that hatch from the eggs after the first treatment are also killed. No treatment will kill all the eggs, so it is important to follow the instructions and complete the second treatment.
  2. Wet combing with conditioner. This method should be repeated every two or three days for at least two weeks, until there have been three consecutive combing sessions without seeing any lice. Make sure to comb the full length of every strand from root to end.

Wash pillow cases, hats and hair brushes in water hotter than 60 degrees C, but there’s no need to wash other bedding, or to treat carpet or furniture with insecticides.

Once you commence treatment your child can return to school. Keep checking again for head lice with a fine toothed comb a few days after treatment to see if it is working.

Medibank members with Medibank hospital cover can call a Medibank nurse 24/7 on 1800 644 325

Recommended reading - Issue Eleven Autumn 2015

Community

Mr Wilkinson’s autumn salads

Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan chats about autumn ingredients, balcony gardens, and his new cookbook

Read more
Community

Il Fornaio: The fresh touch

How does a local eatery keep things fresh? We take a moment with Il Fornaio head chef Simon Turner

Read more
Experts

Hunger, appetite and cravings – what’s the difference?

Our needs, desires and cravings can easily get tangled together. Here's how to take back control

Read more
Experts

Gut feelings

Consumed by food cravings? It might be your gut bacteria talking

Read more
Lifestyle

The art of the perfect dinner party

Natalie Hayllar of Eat, Read, Love shares her secrets for social dining with a special something.

Read more
Experts

Tree of life

Just as trees need nourishment, our bodies need consistent, loving care to grow a healthy future.

Read more
Recipes

Carrot and miso dressing recipe

A delightful salad dressing from Il Fornaio, blending the flavours of miso and orange blossom

Read more
Community

The wholefoods way

Kate Bradley from Kenko Kitchen takes a moment to share some of her healthy secrets

Read more
Recipes

Chestnut and hazelnut cake recipe

The crumbly qualities of chestnuts lend themselves to much more than simply being roasted

Read more
Community

The traveller’s life

Portuguese blogger Sofia Machado lives life on the road, fuelled by the pure human desire of travel.

Read more
Lifestyle

A healthy getaway

Feeling lacklustre? A retreat focusing on nutrition and wellbeing could be what your body needs.

Read more
Community

The art of resilience

Matthew Johnstone tackles life’s tough questions with his endearing warmth and wit.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.