Table 1

A partial summary of treatments for head lice, adapted from Diamantis et al48

AgentsMechanism of actionCommon adverse effects; limitations
PyrethrinsSodium channel blocker, neurotoxic and leads to paralysis and death of the parasiteLocal irritation, allergy
MalathionAcetylcholinesterase inhibitor, leads to spastic paralysis and death.Scalp dryness, local irritation, dandruff, chemical conjunctivitis if contact with eyes occurs
PermethrinSynthetic drug similar to pyrethrins. Sodium channel blocker as above.Local irritation, allergy
Conditioners and LathersPhysically blocks movement of lice, allowing easier physical removalTime consuming, limited efficacy highly dependent on correct methodology, repeat treatments are often required
Fine combsUsed for manual physical removal, often with conditioners.Limited efficacy alone, repeat treatments are often required