Identify and fight head lice

Identify and fight head lice

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What to do with head lice

If the scalp is constantly itchy, head lice can be behind it. The unpopular roommates often spread particularly quickly among children. The small parasites are harmless, but it requires a consistent approach to permanently banish them from the household. Experts explain what to look out for.

Head lice cause disgust for many. They have nothing to do with poor hygiene. A simple test is enough to identify the parasites. Getting rid of them, on the other hand, can take longer. The pediatrician Hans-Jürgen Nentwich and the pharmacist Ursula Sellerberg report what you need to know about the crawlers.

Help - I have lice!

It itches, it crawls and if you do nothing, they wander from head to head: head lice. The small parasites are harmless, but quite annoying. And the treatment is particularly complex for long hair.

How do you spot lice?

Lice are most noticeable due to the itching on the scalp. The many scratches can cause reddened spots on the neck - usually at the transition from hair to skin - or behind the ears, as explained by Prof. Hans-Jürgen Nentwich from the Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ).

If you suspect lice, you should do a simple test: You need a lice comb with a maximum distance of 0.2 mm between the tines and a white cloth. After washing, wet hair is combed out and the lice comb is wiped off the white cloth after each strand. Nentwich: "If black dots are visible, then this is the confirmation for lice."

Where do you get lice from?

Head lice - as the name suggests - live on the head, and only on that of humans. And they spread from head to head. "You have to have direct contact," emphasizes the doctor. Because: "crawling lice." Other ways - such as fleas via pets - do not get lice. According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), transmission via hats or brushes is unlikely.

Who is particularly affected?

Children. They are often close together when playing and put their heads together.

What to do if the child has lice

"Lice infestation is subject to the Infection Protection Act," says pediatrician Nentwich. This means that the parents must inform the institution in which the child is being looked after. The daycare center or school must report the case to the responsible health authority. The affected child may only return to the facility when it is "lice-free". This is usually the case after the first treatment.

It is often enough if the parents confirm that their child has no more lice. Sometimes a certificate from the pediatrician is also required.

What does the treatment look like?

To get rid of the lice, there are special lice remedies that are applied directly to the scalp. "It is important that the products are applied to dry hair so that they are not thinned," emphasizes Ursula Sellerberg from the Federal Chamber of Pharmacies. If you are unsure, take a close look at the product leaflet.

On the first day, the head lice remedy should be applied and then the hair should be combed wet with the lice comb, strand by strand, explains Sellerberg. "You can use an ordinary hair conditioner when combing out, and it won't pull as much," she recommends.

On the fifth day, the hair should be combed out again wet. Between the eighth and tenth day, a lice remedy is used again to remove young lice (nymphs) that may have hatched from the eggs. On day 13 and day 17 comb again through wet hair and spread the comb on the white cloth. So you can see if the treatment was successful.

What else is there to do?

You should inform everyone who has had contact with the child about the louse infestation. And even if the transmission via textiles is unlikely, you should wash used bed linen and pajamas at 60 degrees and place non-washable cuddly toys in the plastic freezer for three days in the freezer, advises Sellerberg. Combs and brushes are cleaned with hot water and soap and are not used for a few days. (vb; source: dpa / tmn)

Read also: The best home remedies for lice.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Head lice (as of November 28, 2018),
  • RKI guide: head lice infestation (as of November 17, 2008),
  • Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA): How to treat head lice successfully (accessed: May 27, 2020),

Video: Head Lice - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options (January 2023).