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What's The Best Headlice Treatment?


Everyone dreads the letter coming home from school – head lice in the class! Unfortunately, most kids will get headlice at least once in their time in school.

Headlice are small, brown insects up to 3mm in size. They feed on blood by biting the scalp. Their eggs are white or yellow and about the size of a pinhead and are usually seen close to the scalp.  Getting headlice has nothing to do with how regularly the hair is washed and doesn’t mean hair is dirty or clean - they are found on every hair type!


Headlice spread by hair to hair contact as they cannot fly or jump. No prevention is 100% but the best way to avoid getting them is to tie back long hair close to the scalp, braids or plaits are ideal. There are several tea tree products available that can reduce the likelihood of headlice travelling onto your child’s hair. These include tea tree shampoos, conditioners and sprays such as Escenti®, lice Dr®, Kelkin®. Tea tree essential oil itself can be used but must be diluted, for example a few drops into your child’s regular shampoo or conditioner. Hair bands such as lice Dr® contain essential oils that can also help repel head lice.


The most important thing when dealing with headlice is early detection. The itch associated with headlice is due to a reaction to the salvia of the lice when they bite the scalp. Some kids won’t have a reaction so won’t have any itch even though they have headlice. The best way to check is to wet-comb once weekly to make sure you find and treat them as soon as your child gets them.

Wet combing is the best detection method to ensure no lice are missed. The hair should be washed with lots of conditioner. The hair should then be sectioned and each section combed through while wet using a head lice comb. While this is a tedious process it is the most effective method of detection. Pay particular attention to the nape of the neck and behind the ears as these are preferred spots for lice. Once a live louse is found in the hair you need to treat the child and check all family members.

 We are starting to see lice resistant to the chemical treatments currently available. This can be prevented by only treating when a live louse is seen on the hair. Prevention methods are best to use until then.


There are a variety of treatments available on the market. The wet comb method can be used both as detection and treatment.  As for detection, wet the hair, use lots of conditioner and section the hair. Comb through from root to end very carefully with a specific lice comb, removing all lice and eggs. It is important to repeat this every three days for two weeks to ensure any eggs in the hair will have hatched and are removed.

The V-comb® is a great product that can be used for detection and treatment. It has a stainless steel comb with suction power to collect any lice and eggs into the capture filter. After use, you just dispose of the capture filter and clean the comb. It is gentle on the scalp and chemical free so especially good for children with sensitive scalps or allergies.

Chemical treatments can be very effective and come in a range of types such as lotions, mousse, shampoos and rinses. With all these treatments, use them alongside combing to remove the dead lice. Application should be carried out according to instructions on the product or from the pharmacist. Check hair two days after treatment and make sure to repeat treatment in one week to make sure any eggs that have hatched in the meantime are also killed.

Although lice cannot live for long off the scalp, they can survive up to 24 hours on hair that has been shed. This means it’s a good idea to wash pillowcases, hats and scarves. Combs and hairbrushes can be soaked in hot water (60 degrees) for 5 to 10 minutes to avoid re-infestation. They cannot live on animals so no need to treat pets.

At McGorisks pharmacy we stock a variety of brands and treatment types including, Lyclear, Headrin, Nitty Gritty, FullMarks as well as standard combs and the V-comb device. Feel free to stop in and speak to our friendly staff about which treatment would suit your family best.

Supervising Pharmacist

Deirdre O'Sullivan


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