When your child comes home from school with lice, the first thing you’ll want to know is what the most effective and least harmful head lice treatments are. While your first inclination may be to buy the most toxic lice shampoo on the market, this is a dangerous option that can actually make the problem worse. The fact of the matter is, the best way to get rid of head lice is to manually remove head lice the old-fashioned way: manually comb lice and their eggs or “nits” with a fine-toothed lice comb.
Lice are parasites of the order Phthiraptera that crawl around, exclusively, on human beings and suck blood as their sole source of nourishment. This causes the itching that is associated with a lice infestation. While the diagnosis of pediculosis can mean any type of lice taking up residence anywhere on the body, head lice are the most common in children. Technically, a head-louse infestation is called pedicurists humanus capitis.
There is a wide range of treatment options available for head lice infestations (or pediculosis). It is important to educate yourself about the pros and cons of each alternative before making a lice treatment decision.
Over the counter medications (OTC) are available without a prescription. These products contain either pyrethrins or permethrins. Pyrethrins should not be used by persons who are allergic to chrysanthemums or ragweed. Permethrin should never be used on children under 2.
Most people assume that a prescription anti-lice treatment is safer and more effective than other treatments. This is not always the case. Typically, prescriptions will contain Malathion lotion or Lindane shampoo. Malathion should not be used by children under the age of 6, can irritate skin, and should not make contact with eyes. It is also flammable, so no heat sources should be used when applying. Lindane is not recommended as a first-line therapy. According to the CDC, “Overuse, misuse, or accidentally swallowing lindane can be toxic to the brain and other parts of the nervous system; its use should be restricted to patients who have failed treatment with or cannot tolerate other medications that pose less risk. Lindane should not be used to treat premature infants, persons with a seizure disorder, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, persons who have very irritated skin or sores where the lindane will be applied, infants, children, the elderly, and persons who weigh less than 110 pounds.”
Joining the standard pediculicides is a growing number of new options, ranging from zapping devices to tea tree oil and other natural oils, solutions and enzymes. These alternative products together account for a small share of the lice removal business, but is growing in market share due to consumers seeking alternatives to pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
If your doctor really knows what he or she is talking about, they’ll stress what a shampoo can and can’t do for you. It can’t, for instance, kill lice that are less than four days old or nits. The only way to get rid of these is to comb them out. Such a pediculosis treatment also doesn’t do anything about all the lice that may be crawling around your house and in your child’s personal effects. And, no matter how many times you treat with a powerful pesticide, if you don’t address all these other sources of re-infestation, they’ll just keep coming back.
Over-the-counter lice products like shampoos containing permethrin may kill live lice, but not always. Strains of permethrin-resistant lice are becoming more and more common. Children under the age of two, people with asthma, allergies, seizures, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their physician before applying these shampoos.
The most effective means of controlling head lice, no matter what type of chemical or product you might employ, requires wet-combing (manual removal), requiring someone to take your child’s hair, one small section at time, and inspect for the presence of adult lice or nits. The best way to comb lice is to use a high-quality, metal head lice comb to pull the adults and nits off each hair strand, not that plastic nit-comb that comes with many of the OTC shampoos.
The Hair Whisperers promotes the manual removal of head lice and nits without the use of toxic chemicals or over-priced “organic” shampoos and herbal treatments by offering a wet-combing method and a lice machine treatment. We have been in business since 2007, successfully ridding hair of lice throughout Southern California, using safe and effective lice removal techniques.