The Prevention and Treatment of Head Lice in Children

Suzanne Albrecht, PharmD, MSLIS


US Pharmacist 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are ectoparasites, meaning that they live on or within the skin rather than inside the body. Annually, approximately 6 to 12 million U.S. children aged 3 to 11 years become infested with head lice.[1] Lice infestations are a substantial economic burden on the health care system. Although difficult to assess, the annual direct and indirect costs of infestations, including treatment, lost wages, and school-system expenses, are estimated to be $1 billion.[2,3]

Preschool-age and school-age children are most commonly infested, with household members also at increased risk.[2] Not only is lice infestation a nuisance, but if it is left untreated, it may result in a secondary bacterial infection. Infestation has nothing to do with hygiene practices or hair length, nor do lice transmit disease.[2] Despite these facts, the social stigma, embarrassment, and anxiety resulting from infestation can be considerable for both the child and the parent(s).[2,4]


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