Paediatrics: how to manage pediculosis capitis

Alexander KC Leung, Joseph M Lam, Kin Fon Leong, Benjamin Barankin, Kam Lun Hon


Background: Pediculosis capitis is a common human parasitic infestation in childhood. This article aims to provide a narrative updated review on the management of pediculosis capitis.

Methods: A PubMed search was performed with Clinical Queries using the key terms “pediculosis capitis” OR “head lice” OR “head louse”. The search strategy included clinical trials, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, observational studies and reviews published within the past 10 years. The search was restricted to articles published in English literature. The information retrieved from the search was used in the compilation of the present article.

Results: Topical permethrin and pyrethrin formulated with piperonyl butoxide are the pediculicides of choice in areas where resistance to these products is low. When resistance to these products is suspected based on local levels of resistance or when treatment with these products fails despite their correct use, and reinfestation does not seem to be responsible, other topical treatment options include malathion, benzyl alcohol, dimethicone, spinosad and ivermectin. Wet combing should be considered for children younger than 2 years. Oral ivermectin and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should be reserved for patients who do not respond to appropriate topical pediculicides.

Conclusion: Many topical pediculicides are effective for the treatment of pediculosis capitis. The use of some of these pediculicides is limited for safety reasons, especially in children younger than 2 years. Resistance to pediculicides, especially those with a neurotoxic mode of action, is another concern which may limit the use of some of these pediculicides. New products should be evaluated for effectiveness and safety. Wet combing is time-consuming and should not be used as the sole intervention in the general population.

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Accepted: ; Published: .


Leung AKC, Lam JM, Leong KF, Barankin B, Hon KL. Paediatrics: how to manage pediculosis capitis. Drugs Context. 2021;11: 2021-11-3.

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