You will find many opposing points of view when it comes to the treatment of Head Lice. Our message is quite clear. The use of pesticides and potentially toxic chemicals in the treatment of the infestation can have long term negative effects on the health and well being of a child. In extremely rare cases, these types of treatment have been fatal or linked to documented cases of leukemia, learning disabilities and other neurological conditions.
Head lice can and should be eliminated without the use of potentially toxic chemicals.
The key to successful removal is in the comb combined with manual extraction techniques (see below). Although this process is tedious and time consuming, it IS the proven most effective method for treatment ALWAYS used by professionals. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that finely combing wet hair with a comb specially designed for head lice was four times more effective in getting rid of head lice than malathion or permethrin based lice shampoos. The National Pediculosis (the scientific name for lice) Association agrees. This non-profit group has been working for years to help parents eliminate lice without exposing their children to harmful chemicals.
Their message is comb, comb, comb, but make sure you are using a comb that works. The right comb will be metal, have long teeth finely spaced, and the space between the handle and the teeth will be sealed, so that live lice can’t hide inside. Many combs sold with pesticide based shampoos are not fine enough or strong enough to be effective in removing all lice and nits, the lice eggs which attach to the hair shaft. This is one of the reasons that these products don’t work. Another reason is that many lice have become resistant to the most commonly used pesticides in lice shampoos. The NPA (National Pediculosis Association) recommends combing hair wet and using an approved comb. The “Louse Trap Comb” pictured above is available here, and is one that is approved by the NPA.
Pesticide based lice shampoos are dangerous. The number of parents who choose not to use pesticide based shampoos is growing. These safety-conscious parents do not want to apply a pesticide to their child’s scalp, and risk having it absorbed into their blood and circulated throughout their bodies. Perhaps they also realize that lice appear to be developing resistance to the pesticides, just as many bacteria have developed resistance to the overused antibiotics. A side benefit is that these parents are also not sending these pesticides into our waste water and thus eventually into our groundwater.
Some products advertise that they kill all lice and nits without combing, but there is no evidence so far that this is true.
The LiceMeister comb is available in most larger communities across Canada, but any pharmacy or individual can order the comb from CanCoast Holdings, 1-877-410-LICE. Stores which do stock the combs have usually brought them in when a relieved and satisfied parent who has used the product brings it to their attention. The LiceMeister comb is one that is approved for use by the NPA.
Lice eggs are approximately the size of the head of a pin. It is extremely important that adequate lighting (natural outdoor bright sun light is best) is available. In addition, magnification of the scalp and head area is imperative. The naked eye alone is not sufficient to search out and remove these pesky creatures whether in their adult, nymph or egg stage of growth.
Successful manual extraction technique requires that the hair be WET prior to combing. In order to soften and untangle the hair, a thick solution of white (so you can more easily see the louse and eggs) hair conditioner is necessary. It is necessary that the hair be wet and tangle free prior to beginning the tedious combing process. There are natural products available (non toxic – non pesticide) that can be mixed with the conditioner to help loosen the cement of the egg that securely attaches it to the shaft of the hair. In the event that these products are unavailable or unaffordable, the thick white hair conditioner may be used on its own.
In addition to using the correct comb and preparing wet tangle free hair, the process of separating the hair into small manageable sections is imperative. Pay particular attention to the “hot” spots above the ears, the nape of the neck and the crown of the head while covering the complete scalp (do not leave any area uncombed!!). Each section must be combed and re-combed until the area (and comb) are free of lice, nymphs and especially eggs BEFORE you move on to the next section. Wipe the comb on white paper towel after six to ten passes of the same section of hair, carefully looking for lice and lice eggs before you move on to the next section. It is recommended that this process be followed (over the entire scalp area) every two (2) days during a 10 to 14 day period. This is the ONLY way to successfully break the life cycle of the head louse!!
While some professionals prefer to start the combing process at the forehead and work towards the back and sides of the head, others prefer to start at the nape of the neck and work upwards and towards the top and front of the head in a horseshoe pattern. The beginning and ending location is less important than is the combing process itself. Working patiently, thoroughly and methodically is the key to successful reduction and eventual complete removal of the infestation.
Once the combing process is completed, the subject should have a thorough shower paying particular attention to shampooing the hair to thoroughly remove any residue. A complete change of clean clothes is a must. The person performing the treatment must also observe the above. Failure to observe this simple but important step may reverse all that good that has been accomplished.
In addition to treating the subject for removal, the living environment must be addressed and adequately included in the overall procedure to successfully break the life cycle of the louse. Pay particular attention to the area where the treatment was performed. Vacuum the area carefully and completely. Any materials used to collect the lice (such as your paper towels etc) must be removed immediately and disposed of in plastic bags. Personal items such as hats, coats, scarfs, hoodies, sweaters, teddy bears, blankets or any other item that can safely be placed in a clothes dryer should be cycled on high heat for twenty to thirty minutes. (Lice cannot survive in hot dry air). Bedding, pillows, comforters and all other personal items should be washed in hot water and placed in a clothes drier on high heat until dry.
For any items that cannot be washed and / or safely dried, place them in isolation for a period of not less than 48 hours.
The adult living louse cannot survive off the human head (without a blood meal) for more than 24 to 48 hours. Isolation effectively starves the louse to death.
REMEMBER – lice live on human heads and cannot live or survive without a human host.