Sunday, August 31, 2008

Treatment for Head Lice

I recently got an email from a concerned mom who said there are too many differing views on how to treat head lice. This is a post I will be printing off and keeping. It took awhile, but I did find someone who specializes in this topic. Here's the original email:


Our family recently dealt with head lice. It was horrifying to say the least. I would like to see more consistent and reliable information put out there. I found so many conflicting things such as you should treat every member of the household while other things I read said only treat the infected persons.

There were conflicting things said regarding lice killing spray for bedding and furniture (some said you must use other said absolutely do NOT use). There were also conflicting things regarding removal of the “eggs or nits.” I also read things on different Internet sites about the lice killing shampoo actually causing death in children because they contain pesticides. I believe they were referring to the prescription strength but even so they stated the off the shelf could be extremely harmful as well.

There is a new treatment off the shelf that says it is pesticide free it’s called Lice MD. I do not know however if it works. I even went to the Tazewell County Health Department to confirm that I no longer had them myself and was given hand outs that contained conflicting information!!!!!!!!!

Could you please provide information regarding this issue so other Mom’s don’t have to go through what I went through with all the confusion and frustration. This has really caused a GREAT DEAL OF STRESS!!!!!! I hope we never have to go through this again but if we do I would like to know the real facts!!!!!

With school beginning again this is the perfect time to address this issue.


Emotionally drained Mom

This mom is right, there are a lot of opinions on head lice. It's up to each parent to decide who they think is a credible source for information on how to treat it. I did find Dermatologist Dr. Craig Burkhart in Ohio to be considered an expert on this topic. Here's what he recommends:

Treatment: "Not everybody treats it the same. The top treatment is a prescription-OVID. There is another product coming out soon, but it has not been FDA approved," said Dr. Burkhart.

1. Treat the Nits: Dr. Burkhart recommends using warm vinegar (not scalding hot) to help loosen the nits. He said, "Nits are the eggs of head lice and are laid approximately 1 cm from the scalp on the hair itself. Unlike dandruff, nits stay tightly affixed to the hair. As the hair grows, the nit remains attached to the hair-even after the nit has hatched." He says a fine toothed combed is necessary to assist in nit removal. In difficult cases, he recommends the Licemeister comb sold by the National Pediculosis Society (1-800-542-3634.) It is also sold at some K-Mart stores.

2. Treat the Head Lice: Dr. Burkhart recommends the prescription product Ovide lotion applied on Day 1 and Day 8 to all family members. He says over the counter products like Nix and Rid are no longer reliably successful in treatment.

  • Apply the treatment to dry hair without using any water to dilute the product.
  • Fully saturate the hair with the treatment so all the hair is matted to the scalp.
  • Cover the scalp if possible with a shower cap.
  • Leave the product in the hair overnight.
  • Following the treatment, wash your hair with normal shampoo.
  • Repeat this process in one week.

He says unless someone trained in detecting looks at the entire family and determines who is and is not infected, all family members should be treated at the same time. If there are other people who are in close contact with the family like grandparents, they should be treated too.

3. Clean the House: Dr. Burkhart says to wash all items that may have come in contact with the nits because lice can live off the scalp for about two days and nits can live up to 10 days! Lice may lay more eggs than what can fit on one scalp, so they tend to move to furniture, or the backs of car seats or the inside of hats, in hopes of finding a new host soon. (Does your scalp itch yet? Mine does thinking about this!)

  • Thoroughly wash: combs, brushes, pillowslips, bed sheets and clothes worn over the last two days in very hot water.

  • Thoroughly vacuum the house and car, especially the furniture.

  • Don't lean against a cloth sofa for at least three days.

Dr. Burkhart says there is no reason to fumigate the home or spray insecticides.

What are head lice?:

Head lice are wingless insects that can neither jump nor fly. They are 1/8 of an inch in length and are about the side of a sesame seed. They have claws that allow them to move quickly along the hairs and they get their meals by sucking blood in a fashion similar to how mosquitoes deed. Human lice cannot live on other animals.

What about natural remedies for head lice?: Dr. Burkhart said, "What isn't a chemical?
Some of the natural remedies have chemicals which I have reported are not as safe as the insecticides we presently employ....and no, I do not recommend any natural remedies."

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.


lynette said...

Hi you said you not recommend any natural remedies as a mom who went through it lice and all and did try the chemicals and they didnt work I remember somthing I read a long time ago about tee tree oil and I remembered I bought it at a salon and guess what it worked so good I could not beleive it so when my kids are in school they use the shampoo and conditioner and there are no chemicals in it !

Knight in Dragonland said...

I have a big problem with the whole "natural = good" idea. Like Dr. Burkhart stated ... everything is a chemical. The Earth is a gigantic lab where Mother Nature brews up all sorts of downright nasty compounds - snake venom, aflatoxins, ergot, Datura stramonium, ricin, Belladonna, etc, etc etc.

EVERYTHING has risks and benefits, no matter what its origin. "Natural" oils, like many concentrated aromatic compounds, could be a cancer risk if used too often in too high concentrations. "Natural" remedies are not regulated for safety, efficacy and consistent levels of active ingredients like prescription medications.

For example, Tea tree oil contains over 98 different chemical compounds, one of which has been linked to "endocrine disruption" effects like the infamous phthalates and bisphenol-A

People who use these compounds on their children are carrying out an act of experimentation that could be more dangerous than any published & studied side effect from a prescription.

Jennifer said...

This is a really relevant topic with school starting. It seems every year there is an outbreak at my kid's school, and I always groan when I see the note.
I wonder if, other than not sharing combs/brushes, if there's any way to prevent infection? Does hairspray help? Or is there any kind of shampoo that lice don't like?

rachel b said...

Thanks for the info about treating lice! My question is, what is the policy for when kids have nits/lice at school? Should they be sent home right away for having lice but not nits? The school I teach at seems to have a lot of lice each year, so I'm curious!

Anonymous said...

We had to deal w/lice a few years ago. We tried over the counter shampoos that didn't help. Finally the doctors office suggested using mayo or olive oil. We tried it & they were gone. No aggravation to hte scalp & nice deep conditioned hair in the end

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