Question period...

Many questions have come up in recent comments and conversations. I think that there are others that might have similar questions, so I thought I'd answer some questions here to the best of my ability.

Question: I combed and got rid of the lice but found no nits.  Am I lice free?

Answer: Where there's smoke there's usually fire and where there's lice, there are usually nits.  Not always, but you should keep on wet combing every few days just in case a missed nit turns into a unwanted bug.  When you have been regularly combing for 2 weeks with no new bug sightings, that's when I think you can breathe a sigh of relief and reduce your combing to routine lice checking.

Question: Two months ago we had head lice and we beat it but now my daughter has it again.  Why?

Answer: I don't know.  Either something was missed the last time your daughter had lice or she just got it again from someone else.  Beating lice once doesn't mean that you will never get lice again.  Just take a breath and start combing.  Remember, don't waste your time on ineffective busy work - no extra laundry washing, vacuuming, or bagging up toys.  Just get those suckers off the head.

Question: Is there anything I can do to prevent from getting head lice?


How many studies will we need before we see pyrethrin/permethrin as ineffective with head lice?

These are the related pesticides in products such as Nix and R&C.  I don't know how many studies we will need before our health professionals stop recommending these products but here's another one. It basically says that almost all North American lice have developed a genetic resistance to this pesticide.  Please, please, please don't waste your money on it. The effectiveness quoted in the pamphlets of these products was true when they first came out in the 1980s but our overuse of these products have made them almost useless now.  The last line of this study's abstract says, "Alternative approaches to treatment of head lice infestations are critically needed." Enough said.

Hair Conditioner - fights more than split ends!

If you have ever had head lice, and I am assuming that you are acquainted with it since your reading this blog, then you know that nits are a pain to remove.  Lice eggs and egg shells are cemented to the hair so well that they can be stuck on the hair long after the lice are gone.  This is one reason why I dislike no-nit policies - they don't take this into account. I am sure that many a child has been sent home from school because a nit was seen when no actual lice were present.  The only way to be sure you have head lice is to actually find one on the head.  I have gone into homes where parents found some nits but no lice - and I didn't find any lice either.  The nits were usually a few inches away from the hair shaft, indicating that they had been laid long ago,  and I then had the good fortune to tell the parents the child had lice at one point but for some reason doesn't any more.

This problem of cemented nits has spawned an small industry of products claiming to dissolve the substance that glues the nits to the hair shaft.  Sprays, rinses, creams - you can find many that claim to loosen or remove nits.  Probably the most common home remedy that I have seen people use for nit removal is vinegar.  Have you ever had vinegar in your eyes?  The kids whose parents gave them a vinegar rinse are not usually appreciative of this technique. 

As you may know, I feel the best way to remove lice, eggs, and shells is manually.  I recommend using a good metal lice comb (with very rigid teeth, such as the Licemeister or the Nit Free Terminator).  But I also recommend wetting the hair and slathering it in cheap hair conditioner.  This process of wet combing is proven to greatly increase your chances of lice detection and it is a non-pesticidal and effective way to remove lice and nits.  The conditioner helps the hair remain wet (slowing down the lice), makes it easier for the hair to stay detangled, and allows the comb to glide through the hair more smoothly.  I always recommend the cheapest conditioner because you may need a lot of conditioner and beating head lice should never break your budget.

Interestingly, hair conditioner was part of a head lice study that came out this past spring.  The study was called "Efficacy of Products to Remove Eggs of Pediculus humanus capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae) from the Human Hair". You can read the study's abstract here. In other words, it compared different products that made claims that they removed lice eggs from the hair shaft. The conclusion? Egg removal was significantly helped with just water and hair conditioner.  Specialty products were no more effective than these simple tools and some substances had no effect at all. 

So, join me in buying that vat of generic conditioner from your local dollar store. This is just one more example of how effective does not have to mean expensive.