By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — Head lice is the most common condition passed from child to child, other than the common cold, and as many as 1 in 4 elementary school children has been infested at a given time.

Anyone who has a child with lice knows how difficult they are to get rid of and one reason is that over-the-counter medications used to treat them are becoming less and less effective.

In fact, experts recently announced that 25 states, including Massachusetts, now have head lice resistant to topical creams and lotions like permethrin.

One good thing is that lice do not carry disease, so even though a nuisance, they are not going to make your child seriously ill.

That said, no one wants their child to have head lice, so if drugstore lotions aren’t working, there are several other treatment options. Prescription-strength creams and lotions often work better than over-the-counter insecticides. If those fail, oral medications can be prescribed for children over 30 pounds.

Then, of course, there is the old fashioned way of wetting the hair and physically removing nits and lice with a fine tooth comb. It’s time consuming and may take weeks but it works.

Shaving your child’s hair may also help, but it hasn’t been carefully studied and can be upsetting for both parents and kids.

As for staying home from school, some schools say kids can’t return until clear of both lice and nits, but children probably are infested long before the diagnosis is made. And since lice aren’t dangerous, it doesn’t make sense for kids to miss critical school days.

Kids should, however, avoid sharing hats, coats, brushes and any head to head contact.

Dr. Mallika Marshall


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