Head lice in children are a very common problem and one that parents worry about. There are many different treatments for head lice. This article looks at the different treatments.
Head lice in children are a very common problem and one that parents worry about. Head lice in children is so common, it is second only to the common cold and is a communicable problem that affects at least 6 million people in the US per year, mostly children. This article looks at the different head lice treatments.
What is Head Lice?
Head lice (pediculosis) are wingless and tiny parasites, about the size of a strawberry seed that feed on the blood from the scalp. There is now what is called super head lice that have become immune or resistant to the usual medications and lotions.
Head Lice Symptoms
You might find small itchy red bumps on the neck, shoulders and scalp. Lice cause an intense itching that is caused by an allergic reaction to the lice. The itching can be so intense that scratching the area can cause abrasions or sores. In some cases a person with head lice will not be itchy, especially if this is there first time with this problem.
You can see the lice eggs, known as nits on the strands of hair closer to the scalp. Lice are most commonly found behind the ears and along the neck. They can also resemble dandruff, but cannot be combed out. They do not carry disease and having head lice is not a sign that you or someone is unclean or lacks in hygiene.
How to Prevent Head Lice
Prevention is always the best medicine. Some tips to prevent getting head lice are not sharing personal items with another person like combs, brushes, hats, scarves and hair clips, anything that can come into contact with the head and neck area. You can also get them from other items like pillows, blankets and furniture.
Lice do not jump or fly, but when items come into contact with other items that have lice, those items can then get lice.
Over-the-Counter Methods to Treat Head Lice
There are over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos and lotions that contain pyrethrin or permethrin that can work in getting rid of head lice.
Pyrethrin is an extract of the chrysanthemum flower, do not use this if you or your children are allergic to this family of flowers. OTC treatments that contain pyrethrin include Rid, Triple X, A-200 and Pronto.
Another OTC product is called Nix and it contains permethrin, which is a man-made type of pyrethrins.
None of these treatments will kill the eggs or nits. Combing your hair when wet with a fine-toothed or nit comb will help get rid of the nits. Make sure you follow the directions of these shampoos. You can also use products to spray clothing and furniture to get rid of lice.
Prescription Drugs to Get Rid of Head Lice
If the over-the-counter head lice treatments do not work, your doctor can prescribe one of several medications. These would include:
Malathion (Ovide): This product is very flammable so do not smoke, light a candle or use a blow dryer near this medicine. If you are pregnant or breast-feed, make sure you talk to your doctor before using this product, it could affect your baby.
Lindane (Kwell and other brand names): This comes as a lotion, cream or shampoo. As always talk to your doctor before using this medicine. It is not recommend that you use this medicine if you or your child weighs less than 110 pounds (50 kg), you are pregnant or breast-feeding, have HIV or seizures. You should only use this product if other more safe products didn’t work, since there are health risks with lindane such as seizures and even death with prolonged usage. [Drugs.com]
Benzyl alcohol lotion 5% (brand name Ulesfia) was approved in 2009 by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for use on head lice and is the first medicine that is not a neurotoxin pesticide. Two separate studies using 628 people with head lice, ages from 6 months and older found that after 14 days of the final treatment, 75% were free of the problem.
Do not use this product on children younger than 6 months of age. Use of this product on premature infants can cause seizures, coma, death, respiratory and heart problems. Common side effects of Benzyl alcohol lotion are irritation of the eyes, scalp and possibly a numb feeling where you apply it. [FDA, MedScape Today]
Ivermectin (Stromectol) is a drug that has been used to cure scabies and mange in horses and some breeds of dogs. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that it got rid of head lice in 10% more cases than malathion did. But the FDA has not approved ivermectin for use on head lice and doctors are concerned about prescribing it for this use. For more on Ivermectin, please read Ivermectin as a Possible New Head Lice Treatment.
Toxicity Problems and Head Lice Treatment
The over-the-counter lice treatments and the prescription lice treatments, malathion and lindane are all neurotoxin pesticides which could have dangerous side effects. Lindane might be the most dangerous to use and it is now recommended to use only as a last resort.
Malathion is an organophosphate, there is some evidence that organophosphate can cause ADHD in children. Another concern is that fact it is so flammable. Do not use malathion on children under 6 years old. [Journal Watch]
Non-toxic Head Lice Treatments
There is concern that these over-the-counter and prescription head lice treatments are toxic and cause health problems especially in children. Some of the non-toxic head lice treatments are Lice B Gone, Licefree, LiceOff by Rainforest Essentials and Accu-Life Lice Treatment.
At this time, it looks like Ulesfia (benzyl alcohol 5%) might be the best choice since it is not a pesticide and head lice have not become resistant to this treatment. Do not go on the internet and buy these prescription products and use them without talking to a doctor. Make sure you talk to a doctor before using any of these products, since age, health and other conditions do matter when using these head lice products.
© August 2010 Sam Montana