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Why Do Lice Keep Coming Back?

Why Do Lice Keep Coming Back?
Created on 
July 3, 2018
Updated on 
December 5, 2023

Often, people seeking advice voice their frustration about the ongoing reappearance of head lice, especially after putting in sincere efforts. Actually, there are various reasons why lice treatments might fall short, leading to the persistent return of the problem. The incidence of failed head lice treatments is on the rise. Many people run out to the drug store to buy over-the-counter chemical products only to find out 2 or 3 days or weeks later, that the infestation is still there. In this article, we will discuss why lice keep coming back.

5 Common Factors Responsible for Head Lice's Recurrence

5 Common Factors Responsible for Head Lice's Recurrence

1. Incomplete Treatment

Most families who encounter head lice are unsure what their first step should be toward getting rid of the case. Some look to pesticide treatments, while others try home remedies. Here's the catch: in order to eliminate an infestation, you need to remove all of the baby and adult lice as well as the eggs (nits). Most inexperienced people fail to get out all the eggs because the nits are tiny and blend into the hair. You therefore have not broken the life cycle and the case will reappear within a few weeks.

In order to remain lice-free, you need a good nit comb and viscous oil. You apply the oil, start combing through each hair shaft, and then on dry hair, you extract any remaining eggs.

2. Close Contacts

Head lice spread through head-to-head contact with an infested child. They lay eggs which ultimately hatch and then those live lice may move onto another human head for their next blood meal. Because of their highly contagious nature, the lice spread easily within families, schools, or communities. It is imperative to break the life cycle and stop the spreading by getting the lice out for good. It helps to add a protective layer of repellant or spray to the child's hair to make it harder for the bugs to grab the hair strands.

3. Resistance to Products

Resistance to Products

Once you find live lice in your family members' hair, you may be inclined to deal with these lice outbreaks by trying an over-the-counter remedy for your first treatment. The problem is that these bugs, called super lice, have developed a resistance to these lice products and you will very likely not get rid of lice for good. When these kids return to school, they unwittingly share their infestations with other kids.

4. Surviving Nits

Unlike lice bugs, the nits (eggs) stick to the hair shaft; they are translucent and house a baby louse. After the egg is laid, it will be hatched about 10 days later, and the baby (nymph) will crawl out. While nits are not contagious, the nymphs as they mature to adult lice, become contagious and spread the case. If you leave a few nits in the hair, inadvertently, the treatment will be ineffective, and in about a week or so, you will see further signs.

5. Shared Items

The vast majority of lice cases are transmitted through direct head-to-head contact. We recommend that you sleep with oil the night of treatment and after that all bugs will be dead. You will not have to worry about stuffed animals, brushes, and hats if you follow that plan. While it is unlikely to pass head lice through inanimate objects, we recommend that you and your kids not share these items as the objects still carry a minor risk of contagion. If you hear of an outbreak at school, the best prevention is to advise your children not to hug other children until the cases are cleared.

Lice Treatment Didn’t Work

If you treated your child and the head lice recur, it is because you did not get rid of the case entirely. You left some minute eggs on the scalp. This is very common and why an expert can be so helpful.

Someone Else Gave Lice Back to You

Sometimes, you are successful in getting rid of your infestation, only to be re-exposed from a classmate or friend. If this happens, we suggest that you apply oil immediately and comb through to kill the lice before the case gets worse. Remember prevention is key so if you know there is an outbreak, don't get near your friends' heads or share personal items.

How Prolonged Does an Infestation Typically Endure?

How Prolonged Does an Infestation Typically Endure?

It is difficult to predict how long an infestation will last. Some people are not itchy from head lice and they may not even know that they have had lice for months. Once a diagnosis has been made, how quickly it is cleared up depends on whether you try a chemical shampoo, which often fails, or call in a professional service like LiceDoctors. When we arrive at your home, your technician will apply oil, comb through the hair thoroughly, and then on dry hair will hand pick the remaining nits. The lice treatment works to kill lice and clear up the infestation every time; you will no longer be contagious. You will do a follow-up at home for a few nights just for insurance.

What to Do When Lice Keep Coming Back

When head lice keep coming back, we realize that is a source of major frustration for families. We will give you some suggestions:

Step 1. Try Nitpicking

If you want to try to self-treat, you need to apply oil, comb, and then on dry hair start nitpicking. We suggest you do that strand by strand; you grab the nit and pull it down and off the hair. Having bright light and magnifiers is helpful. We recommend that you use a metal comb with teeth that are close together.

Step 2. Treating the Whole Family

Treating the Whole Family

Since spreading of head lice is so common and some people are asymptomatic, we strongly urge you to check everyone in the house. Add oil, start combing, and look to see if you are able to find a nit. If you do, begin full treatments as described above. It often helps to distract young children if you allow them to play with a toy or watch a video.

Step 3. Find More Effective Treatment Because It Didn’t Work

If you are using chemical lice treatments that the bugs are resistant to, you will need to find a more effective way to end the problem. In order to kill super lice, parents can follow the above plan and use combs, oil, and nitpicking to eradicate the infestations. With recurring cases, we strongly urge you to call LiceDoctors. We have been dealing with head lice for over a decade and we have many tips on how to ensure that the lice won't return.

Step 4. Do a Follow-up Treatment

Our effective lice treatment has the highest success rate because we include a follow-up component to ensure the lice do not make an encore appearance. If there is anything in the hair that was too small to be seen on the day of treatment, we leave you with an aftercare plan that has no chemicals and is efffective. The directions are simple and it works every time. If you treat on your own, we recommend that you check your child's hair every few days for about 3 weeks post-treatment.

Still Can’t Get Rid of Lice? Call Us and We Will Help

We are here for you day or night. We have seen first hand when the chemicals fail or how many parents find it challenging to find the tiny eggs that camouflage in the hair. Our expertise in effective lice treatments bypasses the typical pitfalls that contribute to reinfestation. Call us for a lice treatment appointment at 800-224-2537. We are available every day and night of the week. We will come to you at your convenience.


Is It Necessary to Treat the Entire Household When Lice Are Detected in One Person?

Yes. If a person in your house has head lice and she is not treated, she will pass that along to everyone else. Just because someone is not itching, does not mean she is lice-free.

How Long Should Individuals Continue to Monitor for Lice After Treatment?

We recommend that after you have been treated for lice, you continue to monitor the head for 2-3 weeks to be sure that all of the bugs and eggs are gone. LiceDoctors will have your family sleep with oil on your scalp for a few nights over that time span as insurance.

Can Head Lice Live on Pillows and Sheets?

Lice can live on bedding for one day; without human blood they will die. Most people like to wash their sheets in hot water for added insurance but as long as you have oil on your head in your follow-up, you cannot become reinfested.



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Created on 
November 14, 2017
Updated on 
June 5, 2023


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