Permethrin, malathion, pyrethrin, conditioner, olive oil, herbal, natural?

There are so many treatment products on the market, not to mention suggested home remedies from friends and family.  It’s no wonder dealing with head lice can be confusing and expensive.  But no matter which treatment option you choose, fine tooth combing with a quality comb is an essential step to effectively combat head lice.

A review of Australian Health Department websites reveals 3 core recommended strategies for dealing with head lice:

  1. Use regular, weekly fine tooth combing for early detection and removal of head lice and nits.
  2. When using commercial treatment preparations always check lice are dead following treatment.  If lice are moving or crawling after treatment they are resistant to the active ingredient of the product. If you choose to use another commercial preparation make sure you choose one with a different active ingredient. Speak to your pharmacist.
  3. If the treatment has worked (no live lice found after treatment) use the same product to retreat after 7 days.  No product can be guaranteed to kill 100% of the eggs.  Retreating after 7 days ensures any new hatchlings are eliminated.

Here’s a handy head lice advice chart compiled after reviewing the current advice from State Health Department’s across Australia.

State Health Dep’t Advice Head Checks Conditioner & Comb Treatment Treatment Shampoo or Lotion Treatment Failure
Regular (weekly) using conditioner & comb method Every 2nd day until no live lice found for 10 days 2-3 times per week for 3 weeks Test resistance Retreat after 7-10 days (as not guaranteed to kill all eggs) Use product with different active ingredient or switch to conditioner & comb method
 ACT  X  X X X  X
 NSW  X     X  X
 *NT  X  X  X X
 SA  X    X    X  X
 VIC/**TAS  X  X  X  X  X
 WA  X  X  X  X X
*NT is the only state to recommend a particular treatment product: Occlusive products (active component dimeticone).  They are silicone based and kill head lice by smothering them.  **TAS Health Dep’t website directs visitors to VIC Health Dep’t for head lice info (hence they are grouped together on this table).