FDA Approves a 10-Minute, No-Comb Treatment for Head Lice

The new treatment, called Sklice, promises to be a real time-saver.

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Ian Hooton / SPL / Getty Images

If you’ve ever combed your kid’s hair to get rid of head lice, you know the process can take hours. Good news for parents who don’t have that kind of time: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved on Tuesday a prescription-strength lotion for the treatment of head lice in children 6 months and older.

Sklice, made by Sanofi Pasteur, contains 0.5% ivermectin, a parasite-killing drug that has been used in pill form to treat river blindness — caused by a roundworm infection — for 20 years. In clinical trials of Sklice, involving 781 participants, a single 10-minute application of the topical lotion got rid of lice in three-quarters of kids after two weeks, with no combing necessary.

Fewer than 1% of users had side effects, including conjunctivitis, eye irritation, dandruff, dry skin and a burning sensation.

Each year, head lice infest 6 to 12 million school-aged children, leading to lost school days and lost work days for parents — not to mention the maniacal itching, the hassle of extra laundry, and the plain, old gross-out factor. “Helping children get back to school and parents back to work is a win-win situation for all involved,” said Dr. Bill Ryan, consultant to Sanofi Pasteur, who led the clinical trials for Sklice.

It bears reminding that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses have long recommended that students with lice eggs — and in updated guidelines, students with live head lice — be allowed to remain in class. That’s because lice are transmitted largely through head-to-head contact, which is more likely to occur during sleepovers or at sleep-away camp than in school, and because once kids start showing signs of head lice, they’ve probably had the infestation for four to six weeks already.

Sklice should be available in a few months, according to Sanofi.

For more on the treatment of head lice, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s site here.