Head Lice- A Safer Way to Treat
Head lice are one of those dreaded infestations, especially if you are dealing with long hair! I start itching everytime I finish examining a patient with head lice, but it’s all in my head! Lice don’t jump, and I’ve never caught head lice form a patient. The nit (egg), about 1-2 mm long, will be attached to the hair near the scalp, often near the neck in the back or above the ears. After hatching, the nymph feeds on your blood taking 9-12 days to reach adulthood. Adults can live about a month. Sometimes you can feel something moving in your hair, and mostly you will be scratching and itching your scalp.
The easiest way to distinguish a nit from dandruff is that the nit is very firmly attached to the hair. Dandruff just slides off the hair. Head lice don’t survive long if they fall off your head to the carpet for example (about 2 days). Head lice do not live on animals, they just love humans I guess!
I prefer non-toxic treatments, since the pediculosides (toxic treatments) don’t work perfectly anyway! I have traditionally recommended that you slather the head with mayonnaise (has to be the regular kind for some reason) or cooking oil or petroleum jelly. You leave that on overnight (your child can wear a shower cap to protect the pillow) and in the morning hot wash all bedding and towels and hot cycle dry them, or you can bag up everything that may have been in contact with the head lice for a couple weeks. You can vacuum carpets and furniture. Live lice only survive a couple days without feeding and the nits will die in a week or so. I do not recommend toxic fumigation of your house, as it’s just not necessary and exposes the whole family to toxins. However, slathering your child’s head with petroleum jelly can be very messy, and is extremely difficult to wash out of hair.
If you use one of the over the counter (OTC) treatments (Nix or Rid or A-200 Lice killing) wash your child’s hair with shampoo and no conditioner, consider rinsing with some white vinegar, which may loosen up the nits, then apply the OTC product and leave it in as directed on the package – usually overnight. The Mayo Clinic notes that you can use certain essential oils “Tea tree oil, Anise oil, Ylang ylang oil, Nerolidol, a chemical compound found in many plant oils”, but that these have not been evaluated by the FDA for safety. You can read more on that here…
Cetaphil cleanser is also very useful for removing lice. Apply Cetaphil cleanser to the hair. You want to make sure to use enough to thoroughly saturate the hair. Then dry the hair using a blow dryer, and keep it on for 8 hours. You can do this before bed, and is not messy, like petroleum jelly would be. In the morning, rinse this from the hair. Be sure when using Cetaphil that you are using the cleanser and not the lotion! Of course the most important part is to remove the nits from the hair.
A new study, “Safety and efficacy of a 100% dimethicone pediculocide in school-age children,” which you can read here… used 100 % dimethicone gel (LiceMD). “First, apply the product to dry hair, then wait 10 min. Next, with product still in the hair, separate hair into small sections and comb hair to remove lice and eggs. LiceMD® products contain a patented comb specially designed to remove lice and their eggs from hair.” This was followed by using regular shampoo. The process would be repeated up to two times on subsequent days if any lice or nits were found. After one day of treatment, 98.30 % of subjects (57 of 58) were free of live lice and 55.20 % (32 of 58) were free of viable eggs. On day 14 of the study, 96.50 % of subjects (55 of 57) were still free of live lice.
Check out Dr. Thomas recent blog article on dealing with head lice by clicking here…