Head lice and nits

Head lice can make your head feel itchy and like something is moving in your hair, the only way to be sure someone has head lice is by finding live lice. You can do this by combing their hair with a special fine-toothed comb (detection comb). You can buy these online or at pharmacies.

Lice and nits can be removed by wet combing. You should try this method first. There may be instructions with the detection comb, but usually you: wash hair with ordinary shampoo, apply lots of conditioner (any conditioner will do) and comb the whole head of hair, from the roots to the ends. Do wet combing on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly hatched head lice. Check again that everyone’s hair is free of lice on day 17.

Ask a pharmacist for advice if you have tried wet combing for 17 days, but your child still has live head lice. They may recommend using medicated lotions and sprays. Some treatments need to be repeated after a week to kill any newly hatched lice. Check the pack to see if they’re OK for you or your child and how to use them. If lotions or sprays do not work, speak to a pharmacist about other treatments.

There’s nothing you can do to prevent head lice. You can help stop them spreading by wet or dry combing regularly to catch them early. There’s no need for children to stay off school or to wash laundry on a hot wash.

Click here for advice on the NHS Health A-Z website, Head lice and nits.

There is also a video available: How do I check for Head lice and treat Head lice (NHS)

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Page last updated 29 June 2022