The Absolute Best Lice Treatment Tools You Need When You Get That SOS Phone Call

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As a parent, there might be few phone calls home from school that make you cringe, like the one telling you your child has lice. Questions like where did it come from, how do we get rid of it, and is it in our home, might immediately pop up. But don’t worry, it’s incredibly common and in no way a reflection of poor hygiene. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to handle, though. 

Head lice are everywhere. The small, wingless insects infest the scalp and hair and feed on blood from the scalp (I know, not something any parent wants to deal with). The eggs of lice, called nits, are tiny, oval-shaped structures that attach firmly to the hair shaft near the scalp, and spread primarily through direct head-to-head contact. They cannot jump or fly, so close contact is necessary for transmission, which is why children are more likely to transmit it.  

“Young children often engage in close physical contact during play and social interactions increasing the likelihood of lice transmission,” says Phil Boucher, M.D. and pediatrician at Frontier Pediatric Care in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Children may share personal items more frequently, providing an opportunity for lice to spread and young children may not fully understand the importance of personal hygiene or be able to recognize the signs of lice infestation, leading to delayed detection and subsequent spread within a community.”

Common symptoms include your child itching and scratching their scalp, a tickling sensation or irritability. Dr. Boucher adds it’s important to note that not everyone with lice experiences itching, especially during the early stages of infestation, so it’s important to check your child for lice if you suspect an outbreak at their school or within their group of friends. 

And when it comes to prevention, avoiding head-to-head contact is your best option. Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, family physician and National Medical Director at One Medical, says it’s also smart to avoid sharing items like hats, brushes or towels, and when a person is diagnosed with head lice, it’s important to get the entire family checked and treated.

When it comes to checking your child for lice, doctors recommend looking at their scalp, behind their ears and the nape of their neck, and if you see or suspect any lice, begin lice removal treatments right away. 

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“There are shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrogens, which can kill lice,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “However, both can only kill live lice and not the unhatched eggs. This is why follow-up treatments might be necessary.”

It can be unsettling to find out your child has lice, but there are plenty of treatment options, both prescription and non-prescription, to tackle those tiny bugs. Below, doctors share their advice on the best products and ingredients to get rid of lice—and tips to make those treatments as effective as possible. 

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RID Lice Treatment Complete Kit

This all-in-one kit has everything you need for killing lice and lice eggs. Powered by a combination of piperonyl butoxide and pyrethrum extract, two ingredients doctors recommend to safely remove lice, you can apply the spray directly to dry hair, let it sit and then rinse and comb out without leaving any chemical residue behind. And the kit comes with a home spray to be used on non-washable items like car interiors or mattresses. 

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NIT Free Terminator Comb

Doctors agree that the best way to remove lice is by using a comb. So grab your favorite conditioner, apply it to dry hair and start removing even the smallest of lice eggs with NIT’s spiral micro-grooved teeth comb. The microscopically rounded tooth ends protect the scalp from scratching and pulling, and the corrosion-resistant stainless steel teeth means it can be effectively sterilized between uses.

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Fairy Tales Lice Treatment

Fairy Tales’ gentle, no-mess foaming mousse uses natural enzymes rather than chemicals to effectively remove lice. The formula is unique in that it dissolves the sticky glue that attaches eggs to the hair and breaks down the shell of the louse. Each bottle comes with a comb and contains six to 10 treatments.

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Licefreee Spray

Instead of using harsh chemicals and pesticides, Licefreee contains the naturally-occurring mineral sodium chloride, to kill lice, eggs and nits on contact. All you have to do is hold the bottle four to six inches away from the head and spray on dry hair until it is thoroughly saturated. Allow the product to air dry and the brush through with the included metal comb. Repeat the process if necessary.


Lice MD Lice Treatment Kit

If you’re finding spray or washes are not working to get rid of stubborn lice, this Lice MD gel formulation should do the trick. This pesticide-free, non-toxic, safe, and odorless formula is powered by dimethicone, which is less likely to irritate the skin and is effective in killing lice, as well as preventing a future infestation. Just apply the gel to the scalp, brush it through, let it sit and shampoo until clean.  

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Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

If you or your child has sensitive skin, a classic bottle of Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is a great method to try. Apply a good amount of product to dry hair, massaging it thoroughly from scalp to end, making sure every bit of hair is coated. Next, grab a lice comb and carefully move through the hair one section at a time, removing product along with any louse, nymphs or kits you can find. When done, blow dry hair on high heat to kill anything you might have missed. You can repeat this weekly to make sure all lice are killed.

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Lice Shield Shampoo and Conditioner

Prevention is key in reducing the spread of lice, and if you’re looking for a more natural route, essential oils can help. This two-in-one shampoo and conditioner was developed with a blend of  citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar and geraniol essential oils that nourishes the hair and is safe for the whole family. This is intended for use as a deterrent, and does not kill lice or eggs, or treat an infestation.

Before you go, check out some other children’s health remedies: 

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