PHARMACISTS have warned that head lice treatments expose children to harmful pesticides and should only be used if lice are present.
Children with asthma, allergies or a pre-existing skin condition are vulnerable to the pesticides in the treatments, said Bernard Duggan of the Irish Pharmacy Union.
Head lice affect more school-aged children than all other infectious diseases combined, so pharmacists are issuing the warning as children prepare to go back to school.
While it is understandable that parents want to try to prevent an outbreak, using treatments as a preventative measure "does not work, has no benefits and exposes children to pesticides unnecessarily", said Mr Duggan.
"We are reminding parents that treatments should only be used if there are nits or lice present in a child's hair."
It is estimated that one in 10 children suffers from head lice at any one time, and 80pc of the infections are in children aged four to 16.
Mr Duggan urged parents to seek advice from their local pharmacist on the product that best suits their child or family.
Products should not be used by pregnant women or on children under six months old, he added.
Itching and scratching are common signs of head lice, and nits look like small pieces of dandruff but cannot be flicked off the hair.