Doctor Nit Picks Myths About Lice With Real Solutions to Wipe Them Out

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Perhaps the most wonderful time for all parents is the start of the new school year. However, along with the exposure of learning, comes the exposure for viruses, illnesses and other ailments. One of the most contagious and embarrassing health risks for school-aged children is lice. Dr. Sabina Rebis, founder of The Model of Health, spotlights the latest innovations to prevent and treat a lice outbreak.

Lice lay and attach their eggs to hair close to the scalp.

"Natural remedies such as oils or conditioners don’t kill lice, Consult your pediatrician to determine the most effective, safest treatment and avoid wasting money and time."

Most parents quickly spiral into crisis mode when their child complains about an itchy scalp. Yikes it must be lice! But before slathering mayonnaise, olive oil or other home remedies on a child’s head to eradicate the parasites, Dr. Sabina Rebis urges parents to get the facts.

“As with any other health concerns you have about your child, consulting your pediatrician first can help you determine the most effective, safest treatment for your child,” said Dr. Rebis, founder of The Model of Health and family physician. “The first thing I tell moms and dads about lice is this too shall pass.”

Dr. Rebis also reassures parents that they are not alone, and personal hygiene is not a factor. While reliable data on how many people get head lice each year in the United States are not available, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the U.S. among children 3 to 11 years of age. Some studies suggest that girls get head lice more often than boys, probably due to more frequent head-to-head contact.

All socioeconomic groups are affected. Head lice infestation is not significantly influenced by hair length or by frequent brushing or shampooing. The spread of lice from hats, hairbrushes or combs, headphones and other objects is not common. Most often, the spread of lice to others occurs at home, not school. Sleepovers and bed-sharing are a major source. See https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/5/e1355 for the full study.

Lice do not hop or jump; they can only crawl, and pets do not play a role in the transmission of human lice.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), head lice are tiny bugs about the size of a sesame seed (2-3 millimeters long). Their bodies are usually pale and gray, but their color may vary. One of these tiny bugs is called a louse. Head lice feed on small amounts of blood from the scalp. They can usually live 1 to 2 days without a host.

Lice lay and attach their eggs to hair close to the scalp. The eggs and their shell casings are called nits. They are oval and about the size of a knot in thread (0.8 mm long and 0.3 mm wide) and usually yellow to white. Some nits may blend in with some people's hair color, making them hard to see, and are often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets. Nits attach to the hair with a sticky substance that holds them firmly in place. After the eggs hatch, the empty nits stay on the hair shaft.

“Although using natural remedies such as oils or conditioners don’t kill lice, these lubricants can be beneficial to slow down the movement of lice and eliminate the possibility of static electricity that allows lice to fly off hair strands during comb out treatments,” said Dr. Rebis.

Dr. Rebis suggests over the counter 1% permethrin or pyrethrins are a reasonable first choice for primary treatment of active infestations if pediculicide therapy is required, unless lice resistance to these products has been proven in the community. Sample products include Nix and RID.

Prescription Benzyl alcohol 5% can be used for children older than 6 months, or malathion 0.5% can be used for children 2 years or older in areas where lice resistance to permethrin or pyrethrins has been demonstrated.

A complimentary treatment to these medicines consists of a comb out under UV light. The lice, their eggs and nits glow under UV light because UV light is absorbed by the chitin, a major constituent of the “shell” of lice and nits. Chitin emits fluorescence during exposure to UV which makes the insects glow and therefore easier to see.

An alternative treatment is the FDA-cleared AirAllé® device that kills lice and eggs through dehydration. The device uses a specific combination of temperature, airflow, time and technique. In a clinical report on head lice by the AAP (Pediatrics volume 135, number 5, May 2015), the AirAllé® was listed as the only device to kill lice and eggs through desiccation. It also stated regular blow dryers should not be used for treating lice. AirAllé® is used professionally at Lice Clinics of America. Treatment typically costs $155.

Dr. Rebis shares other tips to treat lice:

  • If a person is identified with head lice, all household members should be checked for head lice, and those with live lice or nits within 1 cm of the scalp should be treated.
  • Only items that have been in contact with the head of the person with infestation in the 24 to 48 hours before treatment should be considered for cleaning, given the fact that louse survival off the scalp beyond 48 hours is extremely unlikely.
  • Washing, soaking, or drying items at temperatures greater than 130°F will kill stray lice or nits.
  • Although head lice can survive for prolonged periods in chlorinated water, it is unlikely that there is a significant risk of transmission in swimming pools.
  • Although it is rarely necessary, items that cannot be washed can be bagged in plastic for 2 weeks, a time when any nits that may have survived would have hatched and nymphs would die without a source for feeding.
  • Per the AAP a child should not be restricted from school attendance because of lice, because head lice have low contagion within classrooms.
  • Parents are encouraged to check their children’s heads for lice regularly and if the child is symptomatic.

“The bottom line is to stick with proven solutions to avoid wasting money on ineffective treatments,” concludes Dr. Rebis. “The CDC recommends following your doctor’s instructions and letting them know if treatment doesn’t appear to be working.”

About The Model of Health
The Model of Health is the premier resource for timely health news, tips, and trends to help everyone achieve optimal health. Motivation starts with inspiration! Dr. Sabina Rebis is committed to inspiring everyone to choose a healthy lifestyle by providing researched-based information, products, and recipes. For more information, visit http://themodelofhealth.com/.

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