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PharmacyBack-to-school time also means children are returning to the environment where head lice proliferate and parents are often at their wit’s end trying to find ways to get rid of them.

And the problem only seems to get worse as the lice are evolving into super bugs that are increasingly resistant to the treatments which in the past have successfully eradicated them.

Head lice are pretty harmless but any creepy-crawly in our children’s hair – or our own hair - demands attention regardless of the fact that getting rid of them is sometimes easier said than done.

Head lice are wingless creatures which cannot fly or even jump but move from host to host by crawling or climbing. Thus close contact between children gives them great opportunities to spread but it is important not understand that head lice are not confined to children. In fact, anyone can get head lice but they are more common in children because of the close contact children have with each other. Of course when children have them they are likely to bring them home and infest other family members.

Having found head lice, the next step is to try to get rid of them.

Your community pharmacy stocks special combs as well as shampoos, conditioners, creams and other products.

Many of these chemical treatments are based on the chrysanthemum-type pyrethrin insecticides while some contain malathion. There are also a number of treatments available based on essential oils such as anise, rosemary, lavender, and tea tree oil. There are also products containing synthetic pyrethroids (permethrin, bioallethrin), and a range of herbal products.

The wide variety of active ingredients available is due to the fact that head lice are very adaptable and can develop resistance to some chemicals. Because insecticide resistance is common, you should test if lice are dead after using a product. If they are, treat again in seven days using the same product. If the lice are not dead the lice may be resistant to the product and all products containing the same active compound. Wash off the product and treat as soon as possible using a product containing a different active compound. If the insecticide has worked, the lice will be dead within 20 minutes.

It is possible a head lice product could cause a reaction and should be used with care by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children less than 12 months old and people with allergies, asthma or open wounds on the scalp.

Your pharmacist can talk to you about how best to treat head lice and which products may work best for you or your children. Speak to the friendly team at Capital Chemist Southlands they are committed to providing expert advice and quality service.