Head lice can only be diagnosed by finding live lice, as eggs take 7 days to hatch and may appear viable for weeks after death of the egg. Infestation may be more likely in school children, with risks increased in children with more siblings, longer hair, and of lower socioeconomic group. We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments for head lice? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to June 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). We found 26 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions. In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: benzyl alcohol, dimeticone, herbal and essential oils, insecticide combinations, isopropyl myristate, ivermectin, lindane, malathion, mechanical removal by combing ("bug busting"), oral trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (co-trimoxazole, TMP-SMX), permethrin, phenothrin, pyrethrum, and spinosad.
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