The Problem with Over-the-Counter Pesticide Lice Treatments

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


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