Managing Headlice

Following the Golden Rules of Head Lice Management can help you take control of head lice in three simple steps.


A diagnosis of head lice infection cannot be made with certainty unless a living, moving louse is found – no matter how many nits are present, how many reported cases there are in school or how bad the itch is.

If somebody has nits it doesn’t necessarily mean they have head lice – when you have got rid of all the lice, the nits will remain stuck to the hair until they grow out or they are combed out.

Hair should be checked regularly, ideally once a week – a good way to remember this is ONCE A WEEK, TAKE A PEEK. Remember, the presence of head lice will not always cause people to itch straight away, it can take over a month before this symptom develops.

It is best to check for head lice using a comb specifically made for the purpose, ideally white so they can be easily seen and with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart in order to trap head lice – research has found detection combing was nearly four times more effective than visual inspection for finding live lice.

Combing through the hair when wet, or after applying a conditioner, may make the process more comfortable.

Good lighting is important and so is comfort.

Checking for head lice shouldn’t be considered a big deal, it is just a normal part of a family’s personal hygiene routine like brushing teeth or washing hair.

Protecting against head lice.

If there is no sign of lice but you still believe your child may be at risk of infection – following treatment, an outbreak warning from school or with a sleep-over approaching, rest assured there are steps you can take to protect your child’s hair.

Hedrin Protect and Go is a clinically proven conditioning spray which works by breaking the life cycle of the head lice – stopping them from breeding and migrating. See your pharmacist for further information.


Treat head lice

If you find live lice, firstly, don’t worry. Head lice are a normal part of life and are nothing to be embarrassed, panicked or ashamed about.

How to get rid of headlice

There are FOUR principle types of head lice treatment:

1. Non-pesticide treatments

2. Pesticide treatments

3. Wet combing with conditioner

4. Alternative treatments

Non pesticide treatments
Non-pesticide lotions work in a different way from conventional pesticide treatments. They do not work by poising the louse but by attacking it physically. This physical mode of action means there is no known mechanism for the lice to build up a resistance.

Pesticide treatments
Pesticide treatments work by poisoning the louse. There is evidence that head lice have developed resistance to some pesticide chemical agents. In part, this is a result of inappropriate and excessive use of these agents over a long period.*

*Downs, AMR, Stafford, K.A., Hunt, C.P. et al (2002) Widespread insecticide resistance in head lice to over-the-counter pediculocides in England and the emergence of carbaryl resistance. British Journal of Dermatology 146 (1) , 88-93

Wet combing with conditioner
Some people may wish to remove lice physically, the most established of these methods is wet combing with conditioner. A number of devices are also available for use on dry hair only, which claim to electronically aid the removal of lice but evidence of effectiveness of these devices is limited.

Alternative Remedies
Concerns over the use of chemical preparations to treat head lice are common and a number of products based on alternative approaches are currently on the market. Unfortunately many of the alternative products, i.e. tea tree oil, lack published evidence or a product license on which to assess effectiveness.

Applying a head lice treatment

Treatment should only be applied if a living, moving louse has been found – never ‘just in case’.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure the treatment is left on for the recommended time.

When applying treatment, cover the full length of the hair if specified in the treatment instructions.

Keep the lotion out of the eyes and off the face – don’t use a hair dryer unless instructions say that you can, and keep away from flames, stoves, cigarettes and other sources of heat.

Most treatments require them to be repeated seven days after the first application to kill any nymphs which have hatched since the first treatment was applied. The checking process should be repeated a couple of days after treatment to ensure that all the head lice have been killed.

Protection from head lice

There are now products available which are clinically-proven to protect against future head lice infections.

The latest non-pesticide products, such as Hedrin Protect and Go (containing octanediol 1%), work with a physical mode of action, breaking the life cycle of the head lice, preventing them from breeding and migrating. Speak with your pharmacists for further advice about head lice protection.


Complete the process

Head lice have been identified, treatment has been applied but there is one final step. It is time to repeat the checking process.

Check that all head lice have gone within 2-3 days of the final application to complete the treatment.

If the pack instructions specify that a second application is required, repeat the treatment for a second time, seven days after the first, to kill any lice that may hatch from eggs during that time.

Continue to check for head lice on a regular, weekly basis. Remember – Once a Week, Take a Peek

What if they are still there?

If you still find live lice after you finish the treatment either it’s failed or there has been a re-infestation. If the treatment failed you’ll usually find lice of all life stages but a re-infestation will usually consist of a few adult lice.

You’ll need to treat again so make sure:

– If you’re using a pesticide change to a different type of treatment
– You read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly
– You use enough treatment to cover the whole head and full length of hair
– You leave the treatment on for long enough
– You complete the treatment course

If for some reason the problem persists, see your local pharmacist or GP for advice.

Protection from head lice

Using a clinically proven protection product, such as Hedrin Protect & Go (containing Activdiol 1%), twice a week, can protect you and your family from future head lice infections.

Hedrin Protect & Go works by breaking the life cycle of head lice, stopping them from breeding and migrating.