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Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

Pediculosis is a lice infestation of the hairy areas on the body. Lice are tiny bugs that bite into the skin and suck blood to live and grow. The most common areas of infestation are the scalp or genitals. Eyebrows, eyelashes, chest hair, or underarm hair may also be infested.



  • Comb your hair to remove all nits. Lice medicine may not kill or remove all the nits. Use your fingernails or a fine-toothed comb to remove dead or dying lice and nits that are stuck to your hair. Nit combs come in some lice treatment packages. To make it easier to comb out nits, soak your hair with a solution of ½ white vinegar and ½ water. Cover your hair with a bathing cap or towel for 30 minutes. Then remove the cap or towel and comb from the scalp outward. You may also use a gel that loosens nits. This may be bought over-the-counter.
  • Clean clothes and bedding. Clean all items that you have used since 2 days before you learned you had lice. Wash items like sheets, clothes, and towels using the hot water cycle. Dry on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Dry clean items that cannot be washed in a washing machine. You can also hang these items outside for 2 days. Or, you can put them into a closed plastic bag for 2 weeks if you have head lice. Keep items in a closed plastic bag for 4 weeks if you have body lice or pubic lice.
  • Disinfect all hair items. Soak combs, brushes, and all hair items in rubbing alcohol, an antiseptic, or anti-lice shampoo for at least 1 hour. You may also put them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Vacuum carpets, rugs, car seats, and furniture.
  • Tell anyone who has been close to you to be checked for lice. This includes friends, classmates, family, or sex partners.
  • Do not share personal items , such as combs and brushes, clothes, and hats.


  • Medical shampoos, creams, or lotions will kill the lice. They may be prescription or over-the-counter. Ask your healthcare provider for help choosing the right lice medicine. Do not use lice medicine on children younger than 2 years old. Instead, use regular shampoo and pick the nits or lice off the scalp and hair. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other oil products to treat lice.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Return to work or school:

You can return to work or school after you complete treatment, even if you still have nits. If your child has lice, tell his school or daycare center.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • The lice bites become crusty or fill with pus.
  • You have matted, foul-smelling scalp and hair.
  • You see live lice or new nits more than 2 days after you use lice medicine.
  • You have trouble sleeping due to itching
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.