Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

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
or 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.

Living 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 possible.

Pediculosis is treated with anti-lice creams, lotions, or shampoos applied to affected body parts, according to instructions. Examples include:
1. Permethrin (Nix, Elimite): single application.
2. Pyrethrins (Rid, R and C, A-200): reapply in 7 days.
3. Lindane (Kwell, by prescription): reapply in 7 days.
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 children.

The DOs
• 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 minutes.
• 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 days.

The DON’Ts
• Do not use medication more frequently than recommended.

When to Call Your Doctor
• When anyone in your household or a sexual partner has symptoms of lice or symptoms recur after treatment.