Is lice treatment safe while nursing?

I am nursing my 16-month-old withand would like to continue. Two weeks ago my oldest daughter came home from school with head lice. After two treatments, she still had it, so we decided to treat the whole family (except for the baby who has no nits). My doctor felt that if I used the lice treatment, Nix, I should wean my daughter. Is this really necessary?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Oh the woe that head lice can cause! It's the bain of every mom's existence.

Head lice won't transmit any disease, but they do cause itching and extreme scalp irritation. The eggs, which are usually seen in hair at the back of the neck, behind the ears, and at the crown of the head, are attached to the hair shaft and cannot be easily moved (like dandruff.)

Nix (permethrin) is a common treatment and it acts by killing both the lice and their eggs.

According to The National Pediculosis Association (headlice.org) (1-617-449-6487), unaffected family members don't need to be treated, unless you have found lice or nits in your hair. If you have head lice, it has been found that absorption of permethrin (Nix) through the skin is less than two percent. It is rapidly metabolized and then excreted in the urine; it's believed that very little ends up in breast milk. To treat head lice:

  • Shampoo  with your regular shampoo (Don't use conditioner)
  • Towel dry hair.
  • Saturate the hair and scalp with Nix, concentrating on the areas behind the ears, the crown of the head, and the back of the neck.
  • Allow Nix to remain in place for the time recommended on package.
  • Thoroughly rinse hair.
  • Dry hair, using a clean towel.
  • In very good light (sunlight), comb the hair (while still damp) with a metal nit comb, starting at the scalp, to remove any remaining eggs (nits). Divide the hair with clips and work in sections. Dipping the nit comb in vinegar in between uses may help to dismissed. For at least 2 weeks after treatment it is wise to check your child and remove any lice or nits on a daily basis. Some people also have success in preventing reinfestation by use of tea tree, coconut, or olive-oil shampoos.

To prevent re-infestation, wash all clothing, bedding and towels in hot water (at least 125 degrees.) Wash all hairbrushes and combs in very hot soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes. Thoroughly vacuum rugs, floors, and upholstered furniture. Throw away the vacuum cleaner bag when done.

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