American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Report on Controlling and Treating Head Lice in Children, Adolescents

Education is key to helping reduce stigma and help manage lice infestations within communities

ITASCA, IL–The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated guidance on diagnosing and treating head lice for the first time since 2015, noting that infestations are neither a health hazard nor sign of poor hygiene but can result in significant stigma and psychological stress.

The clinical report, “Head Lice,” published in the October 2022 Pediatrics (published online Sept. 26), describes new medications for treatment and provides an algorithm for management of affected patients and clarification on diagnosis and treatment.

“Head lice are an unpleasant part of the human experience, but they can be successfully managed and are no reason for a child to miss school,” said Dawn Nolt, MD, MPH, FAAP, lead author of the report, written by the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, and Section on Dermatology.

“The AAP encourages pediatricians to serve as an educational resource for families, school districts and communities so that head lice may be treated and managed without stigma.”
Topical agents, such as shampoos, lotions and other Food and Drug Administration-approved products containing pyrethroids are typically the first-line treatment for head lice, tiny insects whose formal name is Pediculus humanus capitis. AAP details alternative treatments if a child or teen has developed resistance to these products.

The AAP states that head lice screening programs in schools have not been proven to have a significant effect over time on the incidence of head lice in the school setting, are not cost-effective, and may stigmatize children suspected of having head lice. Instead, the AAP suggests that schools offer educational programs for families to help increase understanding and management of head lice in the community.

AAP recommends treatments that are safe and age-appropriate, should rapidly rid the individual of live lice and nits, and should be easy to use and affordable. Parents are encouraged to call their pediatrician to ensure proper diagnosis and use of products.