Head lice grow resistant to treatments

Researchers suggest end to no-nit policies in schools

There is little else that triggers
such a visceral reaction from parents than the words “head lice,” especially
when they are uttered in conjunction with an outbreak in their child’s
classroom or summer camp.

But when it comes to these creepy,
crawly, head-dwelling creatures, there is nothing to fear except fear itself,
say researchers in an updated report on the diagnosis and treatment of head
lice in the August issue of journal of Pediatrics.

Yes, head lice are gross, but they
are not a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene. They don’t spread any
disease, and controversial no-nit policies, which state that if your child has
any sign of lice or their eggs (nits) they should be kept home, should be abandoned,
they say.

“It’s only a bug on your child, not
in your child like the flu or pneumonia,” study author Barbara L. Frankowski,
professor of paediatrics at the University of Vermont in Burlington, said. “Healthy
children, which include children with head lice infestation, should be in
school learning.”

The new report was last updated in
2002, and since then, there has been a growing concern that lice are becoming
resistant to some common over-the-counter treatments such as permethrins (like
Nix) and pyrethrins (like A-200, Clear Lice System, and Rid).

“They are still a good first-line
treatment for most since they have been proven to be so safe and are available
over the counter, [but] if these products don’t work and you are sure you have
the correct diagnosis and have used the product properly, then you would want
to talk to your health care provider about second-line prescription medications,”
Ms Frankowski said.

Another option is wet combing with
a fine-toothed lice comb to make the lice easier to catch and remove, or
suffocation (petroleum jelly or another product is massaged into your child’s
hair, he or she wears a  shower cap overnight
and doesn’t wash their hair until the morning).

“None of the methods are 100 per
cent effective, and often need to be repeated for two or three cycles,” she
says. This includes non-prescription products.

There are some newer treatments
available that target lice that have developed resistance.

Another prescription product used
to treat lice is lindane shampoo (Kwell).


Lice are not always a sign of poor hygiene.
Photo: File