There are quite a few over-the-counter products that claim to kill
lice or their eggs (nits). The over-the-counter hair products that have been around the longest and are recommended to treat head lice and pubic lice are:footnote 1
These medicines contain chemicals that kill lice. Be sure to follow the directions about proper use and safety.
Itching may continue for 7 to 10 days after successful
treatment with one of these medicines. Do not reapply the medicated shampoo or lotion during this
time. You may want to try an over-the-counter cortisone cream to relieve the
itching. Hydrocortisone cream should not be used for longer than 7 days without
talking with your doctor. Note: Do not use the cream on
children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the
rectal or vaginal area of children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells
A variety of other products say that they treat or prevent lice in a nontoxic way. But more study is needed to find out how well they work or how safe they are. Some of these products are homeopathic or contain essential oils. Some products say they smother (suffocate) lice. Others use hot air or another way to kill lice. Some of the active ingredients you may see are:
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about the safe use of over-the-counter lice products or if you want to know how well a product might work.
CitationsDrugs for parasitic infections (2010). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 8(Suppl): e1-e20.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofMay 4, 2017
Current as of:
May 4, 2017
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017