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First Aid for Lice Medication Poisoning

Last updated March 1, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Lice Medication Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact or swallowing of the product.

What is Lice Medication Poisoning?

  • Lice medications are typically over-the-counter purchased or prescription medications (medicated shampoos) used to kill head lice. The common lice medications include piperonyl butoxide with pyrethrins topical application, or malathion and lindane-based treatments
  • Some of the product brand names include A-200, Barc, Blue, Control-L, End Lice, Lice-Enz Foam Kit, Pronto, Pyrinex Pediculicide, Pyrinyl, Pyrinyl II, Pyrinyl Plus, R & C spray, Rid, Tisit, Tisit Blue, and Triple X Kit, among others
  • Lice Medication Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may occur following skin/eye contact or swallowing of the product
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Lice Medication Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Head Lice Medication Poisoning
  • Lice Medication Toxicity
  • Piperonyl Butoxide with Pyrethrins Poisoning

What are the Causes of Lice Medication Poisoning?

  • Lice Medication Poisoning is caused by the intake of head lice medicines (swallowing of the chemical). This may also occur following a skin or eye exposure
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • The common poisons contained in lice medicines include piperonyl butoxide, pyrethrins, malathion, lindane, and permethrin. The medicines may also contain benzyl alcohol, kerosene, and other petroleum distillates. Some of these chemicals can be highly-toxic

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lice Medication Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Lice Medication Poisoning can vary from one individual to another and it also depends on the type of head lice medicine used. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the respiratory system, digestive system, nervous system, skin and ENT may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of individuals of Lice Medication Poisoning may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drooling from the mouth
  • Breathing difficulties and chest pain
  • Asthma, wheezing
  • Continuous sneezing
  • Burning sensation, redness and watering from the eyes
  • Allergic skin rashes; hypersensitivity of skin
  • Weak muscles and paralysis
  • Numb extremities
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Pneumonia
  • Coma

How is First Aid administered for Lice Medication Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Lice Medication Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the product bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions)
  • Administer suitable medication to counter effects of the toxin
  • Undertaking treatment of allergic reactions, if any observed
  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate and seizures
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of the substance in the body
  • Administer laxatives for elimination of the substance from the body
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Lice Medication Poisoning?

First aid for Lice Medication Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Lice Medication Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Lice Medication Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, type of substance consumed/exposed to, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • In general, individuals usually recover with adequate and immediate treatment, in case of mild poisoning/exposure
  • Significant ingestion of lice medications may adversely affect the prognosis. Also, individuals in whom an allergic reaction develops, the symptoms may be severe and life-threatening

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Lice Medication Poisoning be Prevented?

Lice Medication Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Keeping poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Always follow instructions for usage of any chemical products
  • Using appropriate protective wear (hand gloves) when working with such chemicals
  • Be aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 2, 2017
Last updated: March 1, 2018