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Treatments for Lice (crabs)
Mar 11, 1999

What are the concerns raised in recent years about the ingredients in over the counter preparations and prescription preparations like Kwell?

What other preparations are effective with less or none of the questioned ingredients about which you can ask your doctor?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. Lice are most often treatable with over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications such as Nix and Rid. Occasionally, a prescription medication such as Lindane (Kwell) may be needed. As long as you use these medications properly, they are safe to use.

The most common side effects of Nix are skin irritation, and breathing difficulty in people with a history of asthma. The most common side effect of Rid is skin irritation. Rid should be used with caution in people who are allergic to ragweed. For both of these products, care should be taken not to get these medications in the eyes or on mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, rectum, etc.). In addition, you should see your doctor if the lice are found in the eyebrows or eyelashes.

If over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications are not effective, then you may need a prescription medication like Lindane (Kwell). Side effects of Lindane include itching on the skin, dizziness, convulsions, skin irritation, and seizures; these side effects occur most often when Lindane is not used correctly (overuse or overdosing). However, if Lindane is used correctly, the chances of severe side effects are small. Because the side effects can be severe (again, most often due to incorrect use), this medication is available only through your doctor.

In summary, all of these medications are essentially safe to use, and side effects are uncommon, as long as they are used correctly. As with all medications (prescription and nonprescription), always read the label carefully, and always follow the instructions exactly as directed.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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