Head Lice: Diagnosis and Therapy

Gabriel J. Martinez-Diaz, MD; Anthony J. Mancini, MD


Dermatology Nursing 

In This Article


Head lice infestation is a common yet benign problem of childhood. Head lice may be transmitted by direct head-to-head contact or fomites, most notably hair grooming items and headgear. Although the head louse does not transmit disease, the infestation can be socially stigmatizing for both the patient and his/her family. The diagnosis is made by direct visualization of live lice or nits attached to hair shafts within 1 cm from the scalp. Treatment of head lice can be challenging. Available treatment options include over-the-counter and prescription products, as well as some alternative therapy options. Efficacy and safety should be the primary drivers of treatment choice. Education of both the family and school or day-care professionals is paramount to successfully combating the cycle of head lice transmission.


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