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IM&PC Cares: Lice, a common & recurring childhood problem

IM&PC Cares

Dr. Michael Shane Scott, IM&PC, Board certified in Pediatrics and in Internal Medicine.

Editor’s Comment: Beginning today, will feature periodic health-related articles courtesy of New Albany’s Internal Medicine & Pediatrics Clinic (IM&PC). Dr. Shane Scott will be doing much of the initial writing, with future assists from other medical staff personnel. Articles will cover a broad range of topics of interest and value to our community at large.


The beginning of the school year brings around a common childhood problem, Lice. This small parasite strikes fear in the most experience parents and teachers. The good news is, fear is the most damaging possibility of head lice. No diseases are spread by head lice.

It is important to know the facts about head lice to treat them effectively.

  • First, they must have blood to survive. They obtain this from the scalp. If they are away from the scalp for more than 24-48 hours, they die. It is not helpful to clean furniture, carpet, or “bomb” the house.
  • Second, the nits (eggs) hatch after 8-12 days. This is why reapplication of a product is often needed. The application of medication will kill the live bugs, but the eggs do not take up the medication. A lice comb can be used to remove the nits, but reapplication is often needed to kill the nits once that hatch.
  • Third, application of the medication is best done to dry hair. When the lice get wet, they shut down their respiratory system for up to one hour. If the medication is applied during this time, the lice do not absorb the medication.
  • Fourth, lice are spread by head to head contact or sharing items that have recently been exposed.
  • Fifth, washing bed linens is recommended. Use water greater than 130 degrees, then dry on the hottest setting.
  • Sixth, lice do not jump, fly or use pets to get to another person.
  • Seventh, bedmates of those infected should be treated.
  • Eighth, items that can not be washed, should be bagged for 48 hours.
  • Finally, lice infestation is not a reason to miss school.
lice cycle

Head lice affect more than 12 million people each year, and are most common in children age 3-12 years old. Outbreaks can occur anytime,  but are most prevalent when kids are heading back to school and after vacations (August-October, and again in January) Click to enlarge.

For young children under two, combing is recommended so as to limit the exposure to pesticides. In addition, Dimethicone cream, a lotion that is available over the counter and typically used for those with frail skin, has been shown to be effective in Europe in the treatment of lice. Unfortunately, most other over the counter treatments are no longer effective for treatment. Essential oils, mayonnaise, and other homeopathic products have not shown consistent, reproducible results.

Prescription treatment of lice is available, but costly. Most involve creams applied to the hair, left on the scalp for a specified period of time, then rinsed clean. Reapplication is often needed, depending on the product used. If a treatment failure occurs, a second product is then prescribed. In rare cases, oral medications are used to treat an infestation, as the louse will receive the oral medications when it has a blood meal on the scalp.

Lice is a common problem that occurs regardless of cleanliness of hair or social status. Kids easily detect our disdain of this problem, but care should be given so as not to make them feel ostracized for this common problem.

By Dr. Shane Scott,

Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic

New Albany, MS

The Internal Medicine and Pediatric Clinic (IM&PC) in New Albanay is currently located at 488 W. Bankhead Street. IM&PC provides comprehensive medical care for infants, children, adolescents and adults. Care is provided by four physicians, two nurse practitioners, one physician assistant and more than 20 nurses and office support employees. IM&PC will soon be moving into new facilities to better serve its patients.


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