What Are the Basics of Lice?

What are lice?

Lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that feed on your blood. Lice are easily spread through close personal contact and by sharing belongings.
There are three types of lice:

  • Head lice.
  • Body lice.
  • Pubic lice.


What are the symptoms of lice?

Common signs and symptoms of lice include:

  • Intense itching.
  • Tickling feeling from movement of hair.
  • Lice on your scalp, body, clothing, or pubic or other body hair.
  • Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts.
  • Small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders.

What are the causes of lice?

The direct cause of lice is close contact with either lice or their eggs. The possible triggers may include:

  • Items shared among friends or family members.
  • Proximity of stored belongings.
  • Contact with contaminated furniture.
  • Head-to-head or body-to-body contact.
  • Sexual contact.

What are the treatments options for lice?

Treatments options for different types of lice may vary.

Treatment for head lice may include:

  • Anti lice products, such as shampoos containing pyrethrin (Rid, others) or permethrin (Nix).
  • Oral prescription medication, such as oral ivermectin.

Besides, there are some topical prescription medications used to treat head lice, including:

  • Malathion (Ovide) is a prescription medication that you apply to your hair and then rub into your hair and scalp.
  • Benzyl alcohol lotion (Ulesfia) is a prescription treatment that you apply to the scalp and hair for 10 minutes and then rinse off with water.
  • Ivermectin lotion (Sklice) is a topical, single-dose treatment for head lice. You apply the lotion directly to dry hair and the scalp for 10 minutes and then rinse with water.
  • Spinosad topical suspension (Natroba) is a newer prescription treatment for head lice. You apply the medication to dry hair and the scalp for 10 minutes and then rinse with water.

Finally, lindane is a prescription shampoo that’s sometimes prescribed when other measures fail.

Body lice
If you have body lice, you don’t need treatment. However, you must take the same self-care measures, such as treating clothing and other items, as you would for head lice.

Pubic lice
Pubic lice can be treated with many of the same nonprescription and prescription treatments used for head lice.

Talk to your doctor about treatment of lice and nits on eyebrows or eyelashes.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.