Getting to grips with head lice

Written by: Ian Burgess | Published:

The UK’s leading head lice expert, Ian Burgess, advises on effective head lice management and how to prepare parents for an outbreak

Head lice are a normal part of childhood. As with any other minor health problem, it is parents who have responsibility for dealing with head lice, but schools can play a supportive role by providing parents with advice and helping to educate the children.

As the new academic year begins, the subject of head lice is often high on the agenda.

Research published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2002 shows that nearly one in 10 children can have head lice at any time, and this can cause a great deal of distress for their parents.

The back to school season is a common time for parents to worry about head lice, as regular head-to-head contact makes them easy to pass on. Close contact can occur when children literally get their heads together over group project work or get up close in the playground.


When head lice are present in the population it is very easy for them to be passed on. If a parent is keen to look at preventative methods, they should be advised to speak to their pharmacist who can recommend a product which can easily be adopted in to the daily routine.


According to research, one in four parents believe that schools still have a nit nurse, so it is good practice to remind them that this is no longer the case and encourage them to check their child’s hair regularly. Checking for head lice can easily be incorporated into the weekly routine by using a comb with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart in order to trap the lice.

Details on how to check for lice can be found on the Once a Week Take a Peek website and supplies of free information leaflets and other useful resources are available to order from the website.


Treatment is available from pharmacies. It is worth checking whether the pharmacy in your area runs a minor ailment scheme, as in some cases children may be entitled to free treatment from the pharmacy as part of the scheme.

In recent years, new “non-pesticide” products such as those containing four per cent dimeticone have come to dominate because they act physically rather than chemically on the louse. Because the products are odourless they are more pleasant to use. Research suggests lice have become resistant to traditional pesticide treatments, but this is not an issue with the newer physically acting ones.

The key to successful treatment is to make sure that the instructions are followed carefully and that physically acting products fully saturate the hair and cover the lice. The presence of empty eggs (nits) in the hair often confuses parents into thinking that treatment hasn’t worked when in fact the lice and eggs have been killed but what remains is the “debris” (see below, completing the treatment).

Completing the treatment

Research by Hedrin found that four in 10 parents say stubborn lice eggs that refuse to budge after treatment are one of the most stressful aspects of dealing with head lice. As nits look the same as live eggs, they can cause parents to worry that they haven’t got rid of the lice or that their child might be teased.

Until recently, the most common way to remove nits was by using fingers or a comb to drag them off, which typically resulted in hair breakage and standard hair conditioners do not help. Using a specially formulated post-treatment product can help to lift and loosen the nits enabling them to be combed from the hair easily.


The Once a Week Take a Peek campaign was launched to raise awareness of the importance of making weekly checks as part of the family routine. If you would like your school to take part in the Once a Week Take a Peek campaign, check the Hedrin Facebook page for regular tips on head lice management and download or order free resources (see further information).

Hedrin is also running an exclusive Facebook competition for schools in September. Visit the Facebook page (see further information) for the chance to win £250 worth of vouchers for school equipment.


Not only has Hedrin Once been awarded the “Product Stamp of Approval” from Mumsnet after 250 parents gave it the thumbs up, it was recently put to the test on the ITV show Save Money: Good Health, where the product was compared with other head lice brands and was judged to be “most effective” and “best value” treatment by an independent expert. In addition, Hedrin launched a new money back guarantee this summer to run until the end of September. “Happy with Hedrin or your money back” allows parents to claim a full refund if they are not satisfied with the product.

Further information

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