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What is a Lice Comb?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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A lice comb is a small metal or plastic fine-toothed comb. It is used after someone with a lice infestation has had a treatment with a lice killing shampoo. To guarantee total removal of lice and prevent reinfestation, the comb is used to remove nits from the hair. These nits may still harbor living lice embryos, even after treatment with special lice killing shampoo.

Lice infestations used to result in close hair trims so nits could be seen and removed, particularly in girls with long hair. This is rarely the case now. Instead, most experts recommend that long hair should be brushed or combed with a regular comb after the lice treatment, and then the lice comb can be used to remove the nits.

For those with long or thick hair, the small separations between the teeth of the lice comb tend to not be sufficient in removing tangles, and may actually be painful to use. So pretreatment with a regular comb or brush can cut down on unnecessary pain later. As well, it is essential that the hair be tangle free so all nits can be removed. Any combs or brushes you intend to reuse should be disinfected prior to further use.

After a treatment with lice shampoo, most of the nits are now dead, but it’s difficult to tell if this is actually the case. Nits adhering to the scalp are more likely to be alive and should definitely be removed with the comb. With nits farther down in the hair, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish whether the embryos within them are alive or not. Removal of all nits is the best policy.

Most lice shampoos come with a small plastic comb, and this may be sufficient for those with short hair. For people with an abundance of hair, one may want to purchase a metal comb, which is a little more durable. If you cannot find a metal lice comb, a metal flea comb purchased in a pet store is equally effective, and will hold up better than the plastic variety. It may be more cost effective to purchase a metal flea or lice comb if you have a whole family affected by lice infestation.

When you have combed all the nits you can find out of the hair, don’t throw out the lice comb. It should be disinfected and used to recheck the hair each day for at least ten days to be assured that the lice are completely gone. If you find more nits after a few days of using the comb, you may have to repeat the lice treatment, and you may need to see if there is another source of lice to which you or your family may have been exposed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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