Detection combing is an organized way to look for lice and nits in the hair, from the scalp outwards. You may miss seeing the lice or nits if you only part the hair and look at the scalp.
How do I do detection combing?
When you do detection combing every 3 to 4 days and you:
If you do 1 detection comb and don’t find nits or a live louse, you don’t have to check again until your regular weekly check.
If you find something in the hair while combing and aren’t sure what it is, stick it on a piece of paper or clear sticky tape and show it to your public health nurse or family doctor. There may be other things in the hair that aren’t lice.
Only treat when you find live head lice. If you have questions, ask the pharmacist.
Head lice shampoos, cream rinses, and sprays have been tested and are safe and effective treatments for head lice. You can buy them at any pharmacy and don’t need a prescription. If you’re not sure which one is best for your needs, speak with the pharmacist.
Read and follow the directions on the head lice shampoo, cream rinse, or spray.
If the treatment’s going to work, you
must follow the instructions exactly (including if the hair has to be wet or dry and when to treat a second time).
You may have to buy more of the same product if you have to use it on longer hair.
It’s important to use the correct amount of product each time. Using less of the product to make it go further will mean that the lice survive and more treatments will be needed.
The shampoo, cream rinse, or spray kills the live lice on the head but may not kill the nits.
While the nits don’t need to be removed from the hair, some people use a comb to remove nits after using lice treatment because they don’t like the look of nits in the hair.
A second treatment with head lice shampoo, cream rinse, or spray is almost always needed 7 to 10 days after the first treatment to kill newly hatched lice. If you’re not sure if a second treatment is needed, speak with your pharmacist.
Wash any items that were in contact with the head of the person who has lice (e.g., combs, brushes, bedding, hats).
To learn more about cleaning lice from items, go to “lice cleaning”.
To learn more about head lice, you can:
Current as of: May 7, 2019
Author: Public Health, Alberta Health Services
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