Research does not suggest that the chlorine in some swimming pools kills head lice. However, many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments can kill them.
Head lice are small insects that live on a person’s scalp, where they consume blood. They may cause itchiness and discomfort. Additionally, they can crawl from person to person through direct contact and shared items, such as hats and hairbrushes. However, they do not transmit disease to humans.
This article explores chlorine and lice, whether people can use chlorine on their skin, and treatments that kill lice. It also discusses how individuals can help prevent lice and also answers some common questions about lice and chlorine.
Chlorine is a chemical element
However, head lice may rarely transmit through several swimming-related activities and items. For example, this can occur when children share towels and hair brushes.
Chlorine can harm the skin in gas form and in higher concentrations, so a person should not use it to kill lice.
Additionally, exposure to chlorine
- blisters, pain, and redness or discoloration in the skin
- blurry vision
- a burning feeling in the eyes, lungs, nose, and throat
- coughing, which may produce a white or light pink fluid a
few hoursafter exposure
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- tightness in the chest
- tears forming in the eyes
- nausea and vomiting
- respiratory failure
OTC lice treatments include pyrethrins, in combination with piperonyl butoxide, and permethrins. Both of these treatments can kill live lice but not nits.
A doctor can prescribe higher-strength lice treatments, which may include:
- benzyl alcohol
- lindane shampoo, which is a second-line treatment
People can speak with a healthcare professional about which treatment may be best for them and how to use it correctly. Some treatments require a person to comb the hair through with a nit comb.
Head lice typically die within
These measures may include:
- vacuuming the home, especially any floor and furniture upon which a person with lice has sat or laid
- machine washing and drying clothing, bedspreads, and other items a person has worn within 2 days of treatment at 130°F (54.4°C)
- soaking brushes and combs in water for 5–10 minutes at a temperature of 130°F (54.4°C) or more
A person can
They should also avoid sharing:
- clothing or accessories, such as hats, hair ribbons, or scarves
- hair care items, including brushes, combs, or towels
- other items, such as pillows and stuffed animals
Below are answers to common questions about chlorine and lice.
Can chlorine interfere with lice treatment?
The CDC advises avoiding getting the hair wet through swimming or hair-washing for
How long can lice live on a hairbrush?
According to the
Chlorine in swimming pools does not kill head lice. Furthermore, chlorine can have irritating or even toxic effects in high levels and in its gas form.
Lice is still transmissible in a swimming environment, particularly if people share items such as swimming hats and towels.
The best way to treat lice is with OTC or prescription medication. A healthcare professional can advise which treatments may work best for someone and how to use them correctly.