The facts about head lice

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Outdoor sports and activities are in full bloom. Now is the perfect opportunity to remind children to not share personal items, like baseball hats, bike helmets and combs/brushes, to help make sure to keep head lice at bay.

Head lice are a common condition -- affecting six to 12 million children annually in the U.S. -- spreading easily among children in group settings such as school and camp. While there is no surefire way to prevent lice, avoiding sharing personal items is definitely helpful.

Here are some other interesting facts about head lice:

  • Head lice have a life cycle: An adult louse can lay seven to 10 eggs daily during its 30 day life span. Once the nits hatch in five to 12 days, these nymphs will then grow into adult lice in nine to 12 days. The cycle then starts again as these new adult lice begin to mate and lay eggs. If left untreated, the life cycle can repeat itself every two to three weeks, resulting in a lot of frustration if you don't eradicate both the mature lice and all the eggs at the same time.
  • "Grandma's cures:" Homemade remedies for head lice abound, ranging from smearing olive oil, petroleum jelly and mayonnaise on the hair, to even dangerous suggestions found on the Internet (gasoline!). However, these treatments have not been approved as safe and effective, and in many cases are messy and unpleasant to use. Shaving the child's head is also an extreme measure that is unnecessary in today's age of effective treatment.
  • Lice don't discriminate: Embarrassment often occurs with lice infestations because of the misconception that lice are associated with being unclean. However, this is not the case. In fact, head lice are often most successful in the cleanest hair. Head lice are common across all socio-economic groups and affects both boys and girls with short or long hair.
  • "Super" lice: Lice that have become resistant to over-the-counter products are a growing problem. As a result, the lice and eggs are not being eradicated, allowing the life cycle to continue, and increasing the odds that lice will continue to hatch making it easier to spread from person to person. Contact your doctor to find out if prescription OVIDE (malathion) lotion is an appropriate treatment, since there are no documented reports of resistance in the Unites States to OVIDE. In fact, in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requested that malathion be available to the public in order to address the problem of growing resistance.
  • Safety information: Adverse reactions to OVIDE lotion, 0.5 percent, include irritation to the skin and scalp. Accidental contact with eyes can result in mild conjunctivitis. OVIDE lotion is contraindicated for neonates and infants. Because this product contains isopropyl alcohol, it is flammable. Keep away from heat sources (i.e., hair dryers, cigarettes) or open flame while hair is wet with OVIDE lotion. Please see package insert for full prescribing information.

For more information about head lice, talk to your pediatrician or visit