Can Lice Go Away on Its Own?

Reviewed on 9/30/2021
Lice will not go away on their own and treatment will be required depending on the type of lice (head, pubic, body). There are a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription lice treatments available as well as home remedies to relieve itching caused by lice.
Lice will not go away on their own and treatment will be required depending on the type of lice (head, pubic, body). There are a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription lice treatments available as well as home remedies to relieve itching caused by lice.

Lice are parasites that feed on human blood and can be found on people’s bodies. 

Lice found on different parts of the body are different. There are three types of lice that live on humans:

  • Pediculus humanus capitis: head louse, lives on the scalp and in the hair
  • Pthirus pubis: pubic louse, also called “crabs,” lives in pubic hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, facial hair, and other areas
  • Pediculus humanus corporis: body louse, feeds on the body and can live in clothing (uncommon)
    • Body lice are the only type known to spread disease

There are treatments for the itching caused by lice bites but they do not get rid of the infestation. Lice will not go away on their own. The infestation needs to be treated. 

How Do You Get Rid of Lice?

Lice infestations are first treated by improving the personal hygiene of an infested person. Clothing, bedding, and towels used by the infested person should be washed in hot water (at least 130°F/54.4°C) and machine dried using the hot cycle. After that, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription shampoos and medications can be used.

Over-the-counter lice medications include:

  • Pyrethrins combined with piperonyl butoxide (A–200, Pronto, R&C, Rid, and Triple X)
  • Permethrin lotion, 1% (Nix)

Prescription head lice medications include:

  • Benzyl alcohol lotion, 5% (Ulesfia lotion)
  • Ivermectin lotion, 0.5% (Sklice)
  • Malathion lotion, 0.5% (Ovide)
  • Spinosad 0.9% topical suspension (Natroba) 
  • Lindane shampoo 1%

Excessive scratching can lead to sores and infections which may need antibiotics

It is sometimes recommended to apply oils, mayonnaise, or vinegar to the head or body overnight to suffocate the lice but these home remedies don’t always work and can be messy and time consuming. Talk to your doctor before using a home remedy to get rid of lice. 

Natural home remedies will not get rid of lice but they can be used to help relieve itching caused by lice bites: 

  • Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water
  • Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply to the affected area 
  • Baking soda paste
    • Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with 3 teaspoons of water, apply paste to the affected area, and let sit for 10 minutes
    • Rinse and repeat as needed
  • Oatmeal paste
    • Make a fine paste with oatmeal and water, apply to the affected area, let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, rinse with water
    • Repeat for a couple of days
    • Or mix 1/2 cup of colloidal oatmeal into a bathtub filled with warm water and soak for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Lemon juice 
    • Pat lemon juice on the affected area
    • Lemon juice can make the skin sensitive to sunlight so avoid the sun
  • Witch hazel
    • Soak a cotton ball in witch hazel, apply to the affected area and let sit for 10 minutes
  • Apply Aloe vera gel to the bites
  • Apply apple cider vinegar to the bites
  • Apply a cucumber slice to the affected area and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Moist, cool tea bags may ease swelling and itching
    • Cool a moist tea bag in the refrigerator, and place on the affected area for 15 minutes.

What Are Symptoms of Lice?

Symptoms of lice include itching in the area where the lice are. Other symptoms of lice vary depending on the body part affected. 

Symptoms of head lice include: 

  • Itching on the scalp
  • Feeling something moving or tickling in the scalp and hair
  • Problems sleeping: head lice are most active in the dark
  • Sores on the head from scratching that may become infected

Symptoms of body lice include: 

  • Intense itching and rash on the body
  • Thick and discolored skin in areas infested for a long time
  • Sores on the body from scratching that can become infected 

Symptoms of pubic lice include:

  • Itching in the genital area
  • Nits (lice eggs) or crawling lice visible to the naked eye

Where Do Lice Come From?

Lice are transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, or by sharing items from an infested person such as clothing, bed linens, furniture, brushes and combs, towels, pillows, and toys. 


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How Do You Prevent Lice?

Preventing a lice infestation involves:

  • Not sharing beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals of an infected person.
  • Cleaning clothing, bedding, and other items used by an infested person during the two days before treatment by machine washing in hot water (130°F/54.4°C) and drying on high heat
  • Vacuuming floors and furniture

Preventing a head lice infestation includes:

  • Avoiding head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play, sports, on the playground, at slumber parties, or camp
  • Not sharing care items such as brushes, combs, hair accessories, or towels
  • Not sharing clothing, especially headwear 

Preventing a body lice infestation includes:

  • Bathing regularly and wearing clean clothes laundered in hot water and dried on high heat at least once a week
  • Fumigating or dusting with chemical insecticides as needed to control and prevent the spread of body lice for certain diseases 

Preventing a public lice infestation (“crabs”) includes:

  • Avoiding sexual contact with an infected person(s) and their sexual partner(s) until everyone has been treated 
  • Persons with pubic lice should be examined and treated for other possible sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

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Reviewed on 9/30/2021