5 On Your Side

Chemical-resistant lice can leave parents scratching heads for solution

Posted October 6

Head lice are gross to think about and even more annoying to deal with, but it's a problem that happens more often than many people realize.

The first thing parents need to know is that anyone can get lice, even you if your child brings them home from school—it's an ongoing problem in many schools.

You can buy over-the-counter treatments, but Consumer Reports says there's a better, though more time consuming, way to battle the bugs.

Krystine Rodriguez still checks her daughter's hair months after she came home infested with lice.

"I went to the pharmacy," Rodriguez said. "I asked the pharmacy what was the best treatment to give, and at the time they mentioned Nix."

Nix is one insecticide recommended by doctors and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But research published by the Journal of Medical Entomology found that more than 98 percent of lice in the U.S. are resistant to the insecticides in popular over-the-counter treatments such as Nix and Rid.

"Lice have built up resistance to pyrethrum and permethrin, the main ingredients in these products, because of genetic mutations," said Consumer Reports Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Hansen.

The bugs' resistance makes getting rid of lice that much trickier: You have to remove the live bugs and kill the eggs and nits, something the products don't always do.

"The chemicals on the market don't kill 100 percent of the eggs, and they can pose some health risks," Hansen said.

Consumer Reports reached out to the makers of Nix and Rid. Nix says its active ingredient is still recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Rid did not respond.

Experts at Consumer Reports say the best way to get rid of the bugs is to physically remove the lice and their eggs using a lubricant, such as a hair conditioner or olive oil, and using a fine-toothed metal comb to go through the person's entire head.

"The space in the metal combs has to be small enough to allow a single hair to go through them, but not an egg," Hansen said.

Part the hair into very small sections and use a paper towel to wipe the small comb in between passings. When finished, wash or rinse the hair. Repeat the process every day until no live lice or eggs are found.

If one family member has lice, check the hair of everyone in your home.

Also, soak combs and brushes in very hot water for 5 to 10 minutes, and wash clothing and bed linens at 130 degrees or hotter to kill stray lice and nits.

Seal anything that isn't washable in a plastic bag for two weeks, which is enough time to kill the lice.

Parents should teach their children about the repercussions of sharing hats, hairbrushes and contact with another's hair.

1 Comment

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  • Aiden Audric Oct 6, 9:58 a.m.
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    I'd shave my kid's head. Very inexpensive treatment and they learn lessons in vanity, permanence, and compassion toward others.