I keep hearing that there are lice out there! Lice are a part of childhood, albeit the gross part, but it really has nothing to do with where you live or go to school or how often your kids take their baths, its about hair.

Lice are obligate human parasites and require a human scalp to live, they can only live off the host for 6 -25 hours.  Lice most commonly infect children between the ages of 3 – 12 years and there estimated to be between 6 – 12 million cases of lice in children per year. So, if your child has lice, you are not alone!  Transmission of the louse is most commonly from close personal contact especially head to head.

[caption id="attachment_7043" align="alignleft" width="95" caption="Lice"]Lice[/caption]

Lice do not have wings so they are not flying around a classroom or on the playground.  The most recent issue with lice is that they are becoming resistant to the over the counter products like Rid and Ni, which have been the gold standard for years.

These are still used for first line treatment, as well as removing the nits (egg casings) from the hair with a nit comb. It is often easiest to do this with a dark towel or sheet draped over your child’s shoulders so that you can see the nits as they are coming off of the hair shaft.  It is very hard to see nits in light hair.   Nix and Rid do not kill the eggs, so it is recommended that a second application be used in a week to 10 days.

Once you have treated your child appropriately they may return to school, there are no longer “no nit policies”. If you notice that your child still has lice after a couple of days despite appropriate over the counter treatment, call your doctor. Don’t try to smother the lice with mayo, olive oil, Vaseline  or a shower cap, as lice don’t have lungs, so this does not work!  Never think about applying  kerosene to the child’s  hair or even shaving their heads.

There are some newer treatments available. I have had success using Ovide, which is only available by prescription in the United States (but is an OTC product in the UK, in case you are traveling).  Another new product, Ulesfia, is also available. It is made of benzyl alcohol and inhibits the louse respiratory spiracles (no lungs remember) and thereby does result in asphyxiation of the louse. The only problem with this product is that it takes quite a few bottles to cover a child with a thick head of hair, and this may make it cost prohibitive.

Another product that is being used in Canada (again if you are wanting to pick up some lice treatment while away) is Resultz which is isopropyl myristate, and it is in phase 3 trials in the US.  Other products such as Bactrim and Ivermectin have been used “of label” with some success. At time parent’s are willing to travel to Canada to find “the cure” as they become so frustrated with re-occuring lice problems. Remind your children not to share combs, bows, hats etc with their friends.  Lastly, some people advocate treating all household contacts (even without symptoms of itchy head) to eliminate an outbreak within a family.

Now, stop scratching your head.  We'll chat again tomorrow!