July 26th, 2010
12:52 PM ET

2 new meds help beat head lice

It's almost time to go back to school, not only for children, but also for lice.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is offering new guidance on how to treat the most difficult cases of the pesky parasite.  "We're still recommending the first line products because they have an excellent track record, but making sure parents are aware of second line products most of which are available by prescriptions," says Dr. Barbara Frankowski, one of the study authors and a pediatrician in Burlington, Vermont.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lice are second only to the common cold among communicable diseases affecting schoolchildren.  Adult lice are about the size of a strawberry seed.  Often by the time they are visible they have been around for a weeks, says Frankowski.

Typically, lice can be treated with "comb in" over-the-counter medicines.    However, over-the-counter medications don't work for everyone.   "We now have lice that are resistant to medications," says Frankowski.

Home remedies such as suffocating the lice with Vasoline, can also work, as long as treatment is consistent.

In those cases, doctors have new prescription medicines in their arsenal, Ovide and Ulesfia.  However,  if you use it, make sure to read the directions carefully.  Ovide is flammable.  You shouldn't use a hair dryer or apply it in a kitchen where there is a gas stove, says Frankowski.

As for the age old question of whether a child should stay home while being treated for lice, Frankowski gives this guidance:  “It makes no medical sense to send somebody home [from school] if you find lice, because by the time you see something the child has had the infestation for several weeks.”

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Jim

    The article concludes: “It makes no medical sense to send somebody home [from school] if you find lice, because by the time you see something the child has had the infestation for several weeks.” This is silly. You send the child home because you want to prevent the lice from infecting classmates.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GuestWho

      Again, from the article, by the time the lice have been spotted, they've already been around for a few weeks. Which means that they may have already infected other children. Lice can survive for up to a month, and the eggs can survive for several weeks.

      July 27, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
  2. Tina

    Jim: what the doctor is trying to say is: If you can see the headlice..... its too late, the other classmates are already infected, so sending the children home is a moot point. The best time for children to be in contact is generally, right after they have been treated. And Ovide doesn't always work either.

    July 27, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. marsha

    When I was a little girl..say 7... lice had infested my elementary school. I approached my teacher one day in class and asked her to check my head because it felt like I might have lice. She checked my head and told me to have my parents check again when I went home but to sit down. Well me being a child thought "oh well she didn't send me to the nurse like the other kids so I must be ok." Wrong! A week or so later as I couldn't take the itch any longer I had my mom check my head. I was infested. While out of school for treatment my teacher called and told my mom about the time she checked my head. My mother was not only mad at me for not telling them, she was angry with the teacher for not sending a note or any notification of the situation. So sure I guess it makes sense that you don't have to send the child home but I think as a curtosy (sp) to parents children and staff you should. At least send the child home with a note or a phone call.

    July 27, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EL

      Huh? Snort. What?

      Oh sorry, I fell asleep halfway through your story.

      July 27, 2010 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
  4. dml

    The article should have also mentioned the lice combs which are available in most retail pharmacy chains. They are much easier to use than the comb-in products. Just comb thru your kids hair and it will zap the bugs/eggs with a shock from a AA battery. For best results use it with standard on-the-shelf products.

    July 27, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      I have one of these but find it get's stuck in the hair and doesn't get anything out (eggs/lice). Should i be doing something aswell as combing eg putting a product through 1st?

      July 27, 2010 at 22:01 | Report abuse |
  5. Stacey

    Of course, you send the kid home, duh

    July 27, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      I wouldn't be happy if my kids got sent home but would appreciate being told they have them or anyone else in their class. i always tell reception when my kids get them so they can put a letter out to that class.

      July 27, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse |
  6. GGM

    Don't treat your children with those nasty chemicals!! They don't work anyway. Saturate their head with olive oil, with tea tree oil, put a shower cap on, and put them to bed for the night. remove cap, shampoo, and use a lice comb. Do this once a week, for 4 weeks (to beat the life cycle of the lice). Also, wash and dry all bedding, pillows, etc. This treatment smothers them, does not try to kill with chemicals. It works, I had two kids with lice the last week of school. I tried the chemicals twice, did not work.

    July 27, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      I agree to the chemicals. We have treated headlice 4 times in the last 3 weeks after spending a fortune on the products and both girls still have them. I'm having a problem with combing them out at the moment though as the eggs are so small (i'm assuming they're new) that they are going straight through the comb. What should i do to get them out after smothering them with the olive oil?

      July 27, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
  7. GGM

    Oh, and to get at them even more.... blow dry your kids hair, use a hot iron, use hair gels, and hair spray... they can't handle that stuff. that is why adults don't get them. My kids come to my bed every morning, before I treated them, I did not get them...

    July 27, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      i get them everytime the girls do, i'm so over it.

      July 27, 2010 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
  8. beentheredonethat

    All you have to do is use coconut shampoo (Suave, buck forty-nine). They never become resistant to coconut oil because it is not a pesticide. It works by destroying their exoskeleton, similar to what would happen if someone lit you on fire & you couldn't put it out. Watch them drop out of your hair DEAD like wildfire, then use all the time as a preventative. After the initial killing w/coconut shampoo, spray vinegar in your hair, comb w/a finetooth comb to remove any nits. This is the easiest, safest & cheapest solution, trust me I KNOW.

    July 27, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      I have to try this. Would coconut oil work rather than shampoo?

      July 27, 2010 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
  9. RJT

    Lice can only be transmitted through direct head to head contact, sharing accessories (Caps, scarfs, ect), Furniture, or just by having your head where a person with lice just had their head. I'm very hesitant to say "It's to late" for others once a lice infestation is discovered. My gut feel is that schools should send kids home and get them treated before the infestation spreads. I'd encourage schools to read up on new products that might help them in these situations. The LouseBuster Device appears to be something that might help schools with this problem. I would always recommend combing, but it tends to be a bit time consuming. http://www.lousebuster.com or read more on lice and http://www.headlice.org

    July 27, 2010 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jesus

    I'm bald. First, let's cure baldness, THEN let's deal with head lice.

    July 27, 2010 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snork

      you're looking at the wrong site.

      July 27, 2010 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  11. Pharmacist

    I am not sure I would consider Ovide (Malathion) "New". It was initially approved by the FDA (www.fda.gov/cder) in 1982 – almost 30 years ago during the Reagan Administration. I belive it has recently gone generic though. The pyrethin based insecticide products are still currently considered the cornerstone for OTC drug therapy for this condition and widely endorsed by family practitioners and pediatricians for their effectiveness and well established wide margin of safety. I have not seen any published controlled study involving the use of vegetable oil, tea tree oil and the like that demonstrates the effectiveness of these modalities though I understand that there are anonymous reports of success on the internet...

    July 27, 2010 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mom of 3 Girls

    I just discovered my 15 year olds have lice. I immediately used the over the counter conditioner but was very concerned with the horror stories I've heard of getting rid of them completely so I started reading everything I could find. Over the last few days I have used every home remedy out there. I used the olive oil, tea tree oil, suave coconut conditioner and vinegar treatment. The first use my daughter found dozens of the vermin falling from her hair in the shower. That was after three days of going through her hair in very small sections with the nit comb. My other daughter refused to look at what was coming out of her hair so couldn't report. I also put rosemary under their pillows. I change the sheets everyday, wash everything in hot water and dry at highest setting. Vacuum the couches and carpets. Mist couch & beds with lysterine. Use lysol on everything they touch. I seem to be the only one fighting this war but pray I'm going to win. If anyone has any additional remedies that are non-toxic I'd certainly be interested to hear them.

    July 28, 2010 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Carol Rowe

    My daughter seems to be a magnet for head lice. Two, three times the year before last. I treated using brand names and store brands. None worked. Last year I found a non-toxic homeopathic product called X-PEL Anti-Lice Shampoo & Conditioner. It was quick and easy. It also repels lice. So far no more lice.

    July 28, 2010 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Anybody for Nits?

    Thank you for beentheredonethat's advice will try and let you know if it works.

    September 9, 2010 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. lisa

    An organophosphate that's used in the prescription-only lice remedy called Ovide. According to the EPA, this chemical can overstimulate the nervous system and cause nausea, dizziness, confusion. OTC remedies are also not recommended. Call http://www.licemedic.com 347-551-6684

    October 2, 2011 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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