Over The Counter Head Lice Treatments
How They Work and How They Don’t
When a child comes home from school (or camp or day care) with head lice, most parents rush to the pharmacy and buy one of many available over the counter head lice treatment options. There are a couple of reasons to slow down before taking this step.
Don’t Panic – Seriously
First, there is no need to panic. Easier said than done, of course, as people tend to think a case of head lice falls somewhere between cholera and the bubonic plague in terms of urgency. Parents, keep calm. Head lice create more of a nuisance than anything else. There are no serious health risks, and the only reason your child came home with lice was because of contact with another child who had them—sort of like catching a cold. You and your family didn’t do anything wrong!
Here is a quick list of the Pros and Cons of OTC Head Lice Treatment Products, with details to follow.
The Nitty Gritty Details
The primary “pro” of over the counter lice treatment products is that these products have been tested by regulators and are mostly safe when used as directed. That’s good. Getting access to treatment is also usually quick and easy, seeing as most pharmacies and grocery stores carry the most common product options. So if you are panicing and feel you need to do something now, this is a place to start. Finally, know that most family doctors recommend this course of action, and making an appointment to see you pediatrician for lice would we a waste if you have not tried other treatments first.
The “cons” when it comes to OTC head lice treatments, however, are increasing as lice develop resistance to the chemicals used to treat them. The two primary substances used in retail head-lice products are Pyrethrin, an extract for a type of Chrysanthemum flower; and Permethrin, a synthetic version of Pyrethrin. A 2014 study in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that up to 99 percent of head lice in the U.S. and Canada now possess a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to these products.
Also, while these OTC head lice treatments are deemed safe when used as directed, over-use is common as parents over-react to lice outbreaks, and this puts children at risk of developing more serious conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following warnings:
Do not use extra amounts of any lice medication unless instructed to do so by your physician or pharmacist. The drugs used to treat lice are insecticides and can be dangerous if they are misused or overused.
The CDC also advises against treating an infested person more than 2–3 times with the same medication if it does not seem to be working. And do not use different head lice drugs at the same time unless instructed to do so by your physician or pharmacist.
Pyrethrin and Permethrin are neurotoxins, and work by attacking the nervous system of the lice. While the products have been deemed safe in prescribed doses, the chemicals are nonetheless designed to kill living organisms and may not be something you want to coat your child’s hair and scalp with.
Finally, when they do work, Pyrethrin and Permethrin, “can only kill live lice, not unhatched eggs (nits),” according to the CDC. This is a big deal, because as any parent or school nurse can tell you, combing out the eggs is the hard part of head-lice treatment. Every female louse can lay around 100 eggs, which means that missing a few eggs can mean a lice case can recur over and over.
This calls into question the value of OTC head lice treatments even if they work.
The Safer, More Effective Lice Treatment
Fortunately for today’s families a new, non-toxic medical device is available that kills both live lice and nits using nothing more than carefully controlled warm air that quickly dehydrates the lice and eggs. It is safe, fast and has been clinically proven to kill lice and, more importantly, 99.2 percent of eggs. It’s called AirAllé — it is an FDA-cleared medical device for lice treatment, and is available exclusively at your local Lice Clinics of America in Vernon Hills, IL.
LCA Vernon Hills provides lice removal services to families in and around the Chicago area. If you want a safer, more effective lice treatment that is guaranteed to work or we retreat for free, then schedule your appointment today.