I have a favorite comparison: When we fight cancer, we use chemotherapy because the poison is better than the cancer. When we fight lice, using poison makes no sense because methods far less toxic can do the job even better. This week I treated a young client who was exposed to a pesticide called Malathion. Malathion is only available by prescription and requires an 8-12 hour treatment. It is marketed under the name “Ovide.” Here is some basic information about Ovide and some other head lice pesticide treatments currently available by prescription and over the counter.


The CDC acknowledges that Ovide may only be partially ovicidal. This means that it only kills some lice eggs (nits) but not all. Further, this means that an additional 8-12 hour exposure may be necessary to kill any remaining bugs that hatch from those nits left viable after the treatment. I find it curious that a doctor would prescribe this as a first line treatment, knowing that it isn’t guaranteed to be a one time treatment. Of course, I’m not a doctor and I am not privvy to all the factors that went into making that decision.


So, then there is Lindane. Lindane is no longer recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, however, according the FDA, nearly 1 million prescriptions are written annually for this pesticide. It can have serious neurological side effects if misused and it is not a guaranteed ovicide. Aerial use of Lindane on crops is no longer permitted. Additionally, the FDA lists the possibility that a second application of Lindane may result in some severe side effects including death. I’d rather take my chances with the lice, thank you.


Moving down the line, we find Ulesfia. Ulesfia is a benzyl alcohol lotion. It is an effective pediculocide (it kills lice) but it is not an ovicide (it does not kill nits/eggs). This means that unless the viable nits are removed from the hair, they will continue the cycle of infestation. So, one either must comb the nits out of the hair completely, OR retreat with Ulesfia. The instructions recommend another treatment in 7 days. As someone who knows that the life cycle of the nit involves a 7-10 day incubation period, I would vehemently argue that the treatment needs to be repeated after 10 days not 7. That said, benzyl alcohol is systemically absorbed and it is toxic. I’d also like to point out that many people who have been experiencing a lice infestation tend to scratch their scalp. For a moment, imagine what it will feel like to apply alcohol to an irritated scalp. Makes you squirm, right? If one is only killing live lice and not nits, the same end could be achieved with a non-toxic product. Weighing the options, I still don’t understand using something more toxic when there is a suitable non-toxic option available. But that’s just me.


Next on the hit parade, we have Natroba. Recently approved by the FDA, this is a combination of the pesticide Spinosad and benzyl alcohol. Natroba claims to kill nits and therefore does not require that parents comb the nits out of the child’s hair in order for the treatment to be effective, however, there is also a recommendation that if there is live activity after 7 days, the product must be reapplied. This means that they know it isn’t killing 100% of the eggs. How does Spinosad kill lice you ask? Well, according to the product information “Spinosad causes neuronal excitation in insects. After periods of hyperexcitation, lice become paralyzed and die.” So, translating, the lice shake uncontrollably until they become paralyzed and die. Nice. Can’t wait to pour that on my kid’s head.

 

Also, more recent is Sklice, a topical preparation of Ivermectin, a pesticide that has been used orally for ringworm and scabies for many years. According to product literature provided by the manufacturer, there is no conclusive data as to whether Ivermectin causes cancer and Sklice is effective “about 75% of the time” at ending lice infestations. Given that it might cause cancer, how eager are you to risk being in the 25% of people who treat with this product and still have lice?


Now, on to the over-the-counter stuff. Pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide is marketed under the popular name “Rid.” This product has been in use for decades and while it was once very effective against lice and their eggs, it has become less and less effective. Additionally, people who are allergic to chrysanthemums and/or ragweed may be advised not to use this product. Like antibiotic resistant bacteria, the lice have evolved immunity to the pesticides that have been in use for so long. Routinely, I treat clients in my office who have used these over-the-counter pesticides and still have live bugs in their hair. And even when the pesticide is successful in eliminating live activity, we know that the nits remain viable and a source of continued infestation.

There is also Permethrin. Permethrin 1% is marketed commonly under the name “Nix.”As with pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide, lice have evolved a resistance to this pesticide. We routinely see clients who have used this product and present with live activity and/or continued infestation due to the fact that the nits have remained viable and have continued to hatch. Some clever manufacturers are now marketing a permethrin spray for the home so that worried parents can kill lice around their homes and in their cars. How nice. Interesting though, that with a vacuum or an adhesive lint roller, one can remove live lice from the home and other environments. Why companies are encouraging parents to spray poison in their homes in an effort to “clean” the home, I cannot explain or understand. Frankly, I’m not embarrassed to admit that it angers me. It angers me that these manufacturers prey on vulnerable parents and that they are fueling the very panic that keeps parents from reporting lice when it occurs in their home.

So, to sum up, we have Malathion, Lindane, Benzyl Alcohol, Spinosad with Benzyl Alcohol, Pyrethrins with Piperonyl Butoxide and Permethrin. There are non-toxic methods for dealing with head lice that are even more effective, so why would one choose something caustic or toxic for treating this problem? Have questions about how to handle a lice problem in your home? Send me an email njlicelady@gmail.com

 

All Rights Reserved 2011-2014. Material may not be reproduced without express written consent from the Author.

Just about every day I talk to a mom who tells me her lice story. It goes like this, “My daughter was sent home from school last week with nits, she didn’t have any live ones, just nits (myth alert: you cannot ONLY have nits, you need lice to lay them in the hair. Nits do not transfer from one person to another). We did “the” treatment (as if there is only one out there) and we cleaned everything in the house. We washed all the pillows, blankets, we sprayed the furniture with the spray (some treatment kits come with a handy dandy pesticide you can spray all over your house which is both ineffective and unnecessary), we bagged all the stuffed animals and we’ve been washing everything in hot water every day(wait for it…) and I’m STILL seeing things in her hair!”

This mom, and millions like her, has suffered under the delusion that she can eliminate lice in her family by cleaning everything, using toxic pesticide sprays on everything her family touches, changing the sheets every day and bagging everything that isn’t nailed down. Upon further questioning I usually uncover the following:

  1. She has only visually checked remaining family members and has likely missed at least one other case in the family (and it’s most likely on HER head)
  2. She is using the drugstore variety nit comb, which I believe exists only to encourage the future purchase of lice removal products

Somewhere, probably on the Internet, she read the myth that you can clean your house and get rid of lice. What I always try to explain to the folks who call me is that lice don’t live in places or on things, they live on people. Human head lice do two things that we are absolutely aware of…they eat and they reproduce. Their food source is human blood and the only place they can get it is on a human head. Head lice live from the neck up (which should answer the OTHER question we usually get) on human beings. They lay their eggs on the hair shaft of the human host. They don’t live on dogs (even dogs with “hair”) because regardless of the type or quality of that hair, dogs are not human and their blood is different. Lice are species specific parasites.

If you want to eradicate a lice problem in your family you need to do ALL of the following:

  1. Check EVERY family member who has hair (bald dads get the buy here) with a good quality stainless steel nit comb for the presence of nits and/or lice
  2. Treat EVERY family member upon whom nits and/or lice are found properly. This means using something that eradicates all live activity and also removing all nits from the hair
  3. Do some common sense cleaning to eliminate the possibility of reinfestation from the home environment.
  4. Inform the social circles of all affected children, as well as School or Camp Nurses, after school activities (i.e. dance, martial arts, gymnastics, cheer, etc.)

If you have questions about how to treat lice properly, or about identifying lice in your family, please email me njlicelady@gmail.com.

 

All Rights Reserved 2011-2014. Material may not be reproduced without express written consent from the Author.

As I often do, I am looking at Google Analytics to see how people have found me. In the past few weeks an overwhelming number of people found “The Lice Lady Speaks” because they Googled “lice kerosene” or some derivative thereof. I am horrified. It shows me that there are more and more people out there considering using kerosene for lice treatment. Why? Because the OTC pesticides aren’t working they way they used to and parents are desperate for a way out of “lice hell.”

Back in the “olden days”, parents would be treat head lice by putting kerosene in their children’s hair. It chills me to think about how many kids had flammable liquids on their heads in the name of killing lice. Of course, back then, no one used seatbelts, kids didn’t have carseats, people smoked and drank while they were pregnant and no one knew what cholesterol was! Today we know better. Or we should. There’s an expression about a duck…”if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” I feel that way about using kerosene on kids for head lice. If it seems extreme and dangerous (which is does to me), then it probably IS extreme and dangerous.

If you know someone who is planning to put kerosene (or turpentine or some other toxic, flammable, dangerous chemical) on a child’s head, be the voice of reason and intercede on that child’s behalf. There are safe, non-toxic ways to treat head lice. You can email me at njlicelady@gmail.com for information on better ways to conquer your lice problem. Fighting lice doesn’t have to endanger anyone’s health or safety and it can be successful.

 

All Rights Reserved 2011-2016. Material may not be reproduced without express written consent from the Author.

Most people are aware that we have developed a problem in this country with antibiotic resistant bacteria. What they (parents with children who have lice in particular) don’t realize is that human head lice have developed a resistance to the common over-the-counter pesticides typically used to treat head lice in this country. This is the problem with over-the-counter pesticide lice treatments. Not only are they toxic, they simply aren’t reliable any longer.

 

When going to the drugstore you will find two pesticides found in OTC preparations: Permethrin and Pyrethrum with Piperonyl Butoxide, which are the active ingredients in Nix and Rid respectively. These pesticides have become less and less reliable for eliminating live lice. Regardless of what the boxes may lead parents to believe, they don’t kill the eggs (nits). The proof is in the pudding. Treat a child with one of those pesticides, don’t comb the nits out and wait a week and a half…you will have bugs crawling around. In fact, the chances are, even if you do comb out the nits, the bugs you intended to kill will still be present because lice are showing tremendous resistance to OTC pesticides. I personally have seen numerous children who, within 2 days of being treated with these pesticides, had numerous mature live bugs present on their heads.

 

There are some newer treatments available by prescription: Sklice (Ivermectin topical), Natroba (Spinosad and Benzyl Alcohol), and Ulesfia (Benzyl Alcohol Lotion). Sklice and Natroba each kill a percentage of nits, but not 100%. Thus they require retreatment in order to be successful at ending a head lice infestation. The information on Sklice states that there isn’t conclusive evidence as to whether Ivermectin may be a carcinogen. It also appears, from anecdotal reports, that physicians will only prescribe one round of Sklice which means that anyone using it will need some kind of follow up treatment. Sklice’s own literature states that only “about 75% of users were lice-free 14 days after the first treatment.” I’m wondering who wants to be in the 25% of people who are not lice-free. Natroba contains Benzyl Alcohol which is toxic and does get systemically absorbed into the blood stream. Likewise Ulesfia contains Benzyl Alcohol and does not kill nits at all.

 

Then of course there’s the “gruesome twosome” as I like to call them: Malathion and Lindane. Malathion is a probable carcinogen which requires an 8-12 hour treatment period and Lindane is no longer endorsed as a treatment by the American Academy of Pediatrics in addition to being banned entirely in the State of California due to its toxicity in the environment. Currently, both are available by prescription in my home State of New Jersey. In the past 18 months I have seen an uptick in the number of children prescribed Malathion (Ovide) by their pediatricians. Parents who have used it and then come to see me because their children still have lice have reported that the stench was so stifling that they checked their child’s breathing hourly to be sure they hadn’t suffocated. Will we see emerging cancer clusters as the children treated with these pesticides age? I believe there is a good chance that we will. Why are we exposing young children to these noxious chemicals when there are good non-toxic alternatives? It’s a question that haunts me daily.

 

So, will you treat with a pesticide or a toxic chemical when there are safe, reliable, non-toxic methods to eliminate lice infestation? For more information on non-toxic head lice treatment email njlicelady@gmail.com

 

All Rights Reserved 2011-2014. Material may not be reproduced without express written consent from the Author.

 

 

 

 

My least favorite thing to hear is that a parent, in addition to treating their child with a pesticide that didn’t work, has sprayed a pesticide all around the house, on mattresses, furniture, in cars, etc. The fact is that the “lice killing” spray that is found in drug stores is a .5% Permethrin product. To put it in perspective, the OTC pesticide shampoos for head lice treatment contain a 1% concentration of Permethrin and many many times they fail to kill all live head lice. That being the case, the only thing parents accomplish by spraying this junk around the house and in cars (where we often re-breathe the same air for long periods) is the polluting of their environment.

 

There are no special lice cleaning products or lice sprays to rid your home of lice. LICE DON’T LIVE IN PLACES THEY LIVE ON PEOPLE! A head louse can only survive 24-48 hours off a human head. The only thing you need to use to clear your home of any possible bug that may have come off a person’s head is a vacuum, a clothes dryer, your freezer and/or an adhesive lint roller. If you can vacuum it or lint roll over it, do that. If you can’t put it in the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat or stick it in the freezer overnight, then stick it in a bag or an empty room for 2 days. Changing vacuum bags, sterilizing the laundry, covering furniture with tarps or throwing away personal care items is completely unnecessary.

 

Just remember, no matter how much you clean your house, if you fail to treat everyone properly, you will still have a lice problem. People with recurrent lice don’t have a problem because they failed to clean their home…it’s because they failed to treat every affected member of the family properly and completely.

 

All Rights Reserved 2011-2014. Material may not be reproduced without express written consent from the Author.

 

 

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