The Truth About Over the Counter Lice Treatments

in Resistance

In 2002 with the help of $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Health, a fascinating lice study was taking place.

Head lice were being isolated in a test tubes, along with a small clump of human hair.  The tube was then sealed with a thin rubber plug similar to the skin over the skull. The tube was then placed in a small container of blood so the lice could feed in the same way they do on human heads. 

At the time over 12 million children were victims of lice infestation each year so the controlled environment was set up to study the life cycle of lice and to solve a more pressing problem.

As far back as 1995  the Department of Public Health was receiving increasing concerns from parents that over the counter lice products were not working.

"We get calls from child care providers and schools who say lice are increasingly more difficult to get rid of.  When people get lice, they want to get rid of them as fast as possible. And that leads to a misuse of products designed to kill them." Steven Sherman, State Department of Public Health Deputy Director

Lice have developed a genetic strain of resistance to these pesticide, chemical based remedies. Just as a person can develop resistance to penicillin/amoxicillian,  if it has been over used or used improperly. The lab tests confirmed that lice had indeed developed a resistance to these treatments.

Though these genetically stronger growing lice, is an important concern, the real risk lies with the children.  Over the counter products use pesticides as their primary ingredient, and by increasing the toxic levels to over come this growing lice resistance, increases the residual toxic effects the child and the person applying the treatment may expereince.

"I speak to so many frustrated parents, they've spent all this money on products that didn't do anything, and their kids still have lice.  We are not entirely anti-pesticide or anti-chemical, but we need to reserve those treatments in a way the they'll be safe and effective." 

Deborah Altschuler, President of the National Pediculosis Association.

Pesticide treatment reactions are unpredictable based on the individuals who come in contact with them since the majority experience no reactions at all, but in those who do, these are the most common, as reported by the NPA:

  • Skin Blisters
  • Hair Loss
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Inflammation
  • Chemical Burns

These potential reactions, combined with the fact that the treatment may not work adds to the parent's anxiety and frustration with the overall lice condition.

Current estimates today as of February 2009 as stated by Barbara Frankowski, a Pedestrian who has studied lice extensively, states in an article from the Washington Post, that there is still between 6 to 12 million cases each year.

It appears that despite all the effort to eradicate these pests, the human - lice challenge is here to stay.

When it comes to treatments, the bottom line is that some over the counter chemical products: will work and cause no harm,  others may cause a physical reaction and rid the head of lice, and finally,  they may cause a harmful reaction and not work at all. 

The question then to ask as parents and care givers; Is it really worth the risk when there are totally organic, safer and effective options available?

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Sue Krippner has 1 articles online

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The Truth About Over the Counter Lice Treatments

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This article was published on 2010/03/26