Nonprescription medicines for lice

You can buy over-the-counter shampoos and lotions to kill lice and their eggs (nits). These medicines work well and are the most common way to treat lice. Examples of these products include:

  • Nix (permethrin 1% creme rinse).
  • Rid, Pronto, A-200, R&C, or Triple X (shampoos and gels with pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide).

Even though some products are designed to help loosen the nits so that they can be removed from the hair, these products may or may not work.

Itching may continue for 7 to 10 days after successful treatment for lice. 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 you to.

Your doctor may advise you to reapply the lice treatment in about a week to ensure that all the lice, their eggs, and any newly hatched lice are also killed.

These shampoos and lotions contain potentially toxic chemicals. They are very safe when used as directed, but they can be harmful if used improperly or used too often.

Last Updated: November 24, 2008

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