Dr. MJ Bazos, MD.
Pediculosis is a skin inflammation caused by
tiny parasites (lice) that live on the body or in clothing. There are three
types: head lice, body lice, and pubic
crab lice. Head lice are most common in children. More girls are affected than
boys. There are 6–12 million cases per year in the United States.
Pediculosis is most commonly spread by direct person-to-person contact, usually
occurring under crowded conditions. It can also be spread when combs, hats, or
brushes are shared. Infestation does not indicate poor hygiene. Pubic or crab
lice are transmitted by sexual contact. Diagnosis can be made by observing the
presence of nits (eggs) in the scalp along the hair shaft, in clothing, or on
pubic hair. Symptoms of itching cause patients to scratch, resulting in crusting
and scabbing of the skin.
With Your Diagnosis
Finding nits on the
hair shafts or clothing makes the diagnosis. Itching and scratching are usual
symptoms. Nits are eggs that appear as small, whitish flecks securely attached
to the base of hairs. They cannot be easily brushed off. Pediculosis is usually
curable with medicated creams, shampoos, and lotions. Symptoms usually disappear
in 5 days. Infection at sites of deep scratching is
is treated with anti-lice creams, lotions, or shampoos applied to affected body
parts, according to instructions. Examples include:
1. Permethrin (Nix, Elimite): single
2. Pyrethrins (Rid, R and C,
A-200): reapply in 7 days.
(Kwell, by prescription): reapply in 7
Side effects of treatment, such as
skin irritation or body absorption of the medication, can occur but are usually
related to more frequent medication applications than recommended. All anti-lice
preparations are toxic, but they are safe if used according to the directions.
Keep all preparations out of the eyes and out of the reach of
• Examine household members
and close contacts for lice, and treated if infestation exists. Nits can be
removed with a fine-tooth comb.
Personal items such as combs or brushes should be soaked in hot water for 15
• Clothes and bedding should
be washed in hot water and dried in a dryer; or alternately, clothes and linen
can be ironed, or sealed in a plastic bag for 10
• Do not use
medication more frequently than
When to Call Your
• When anyone in your
household or a sexual partner has symptoms of lice or symptoms recur after