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What Every Parent Should Know About Controlling Head Lice

© Michael Alan Morton PhD

Head Lice Infestation Is Escalating
In December of 1994, the British medical journal, The Lancet verified what many parents and health officials had suspected--head lice infestation is on the rise. The reason? Head lice have grown resistant to the solutions most commonly used to fight them--lotions and shampoos containing pesticides. As a result, the number of head lice infestations have risen steadily in Great Britain, Canada, France, USA, Israel and Turkey.2 Time Magazine (USA) recently verified this problem in its January 12, 1998 issue reporting that lice infestation in America has risen to the epidemic level of 10 to 12 million a year.3 Today--except for the common cold--head lice infestation is considered the most common communicable childhood disease.4

Head Lice Are Resistant to Common Drug Treatments
In response to this increasing problem, The USA's American Family Physician attempted to determine which, if any, of the pesticide based lotions and shampoos are still effective against head lice by evaluating evidence in the medical literature about head lice treatments containing pesticides. In its February 1, 1996 issue, the authors concluded that "evidence of efficacy has been established only for per-methrin 1 percent creme rinse."5

Then, in April of 1997, The Los Angeles Times reported the findings of an Israeli study which concluded that head lice have also become resistant to permethrin, the active ingredient in what is considered the most widely used head lice treatment in the USA--Nix.®6

Overuse of Pesticide Treatments Are Endangering Children Clearly, as seen in international media and the medical literature, head lice are winning the war. These new "super lice" are becoming more and more resistant to the pesticide based treatments. As a result, concerned parents can no longer buy a drug preparation that is 100% effective against head lice.

If that is not disturbing enough, consider this: Most parents are unaware that the pesticide-based head-lice treatments they have purchased will probably not work. So, when lice reappear on their child's scalp, parents reapply these toxic treatments more often and for longer periods of time then is safe. The results? Parents unknowingly placing their children in harms way with sometimes disastrous, if not fatal results.

A Case of Poisoning in London
A London Times article of October 5, 1997 reported, "Alison and Keith Thomson from Carlisle started treating their three boys with the delousing lotion Derbac-M after an outbreak of nits at their local primary school last year. 'We kept treating them for about three or four months because they kept getting re-infected,' said Allison. 'I asked the doctor if it was okay to keep using it, and he said it was fine.' Just before Christmas Paul, 6, developed flu-like symptoms. He became lethargic and his personality changed. By Christmas he had become incontinent and could hardly walk. Doctors have said a possible cause is [organophoaphates] poisoning."

In that same article, Dr. Vyvyan Howard, senior lecturer in fetal and infant toxio-pathology at the University of Liverpool verified that possibility and added, "I have used these lotions [head lice treatments containing pesticides] myself in the past but knowing what I do now, I would never dream of using them again on my children."7

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