Forget about treat head lice with chemicals, here are toxic-free alternative that works
So your child has been sent home from school with head lice. Welcome to the annual back-to-school nightmare of millions of parents.
before you douse your child’s head with the regular chemical stuff, you might want to know what’s in it. The answer: neurotoxins, which kill lice by attacking the central nervous system. Rid, Pronto, and A-200 contain pyrethrins, and Nix contains permethrin, all used in common garden pesticides. Ovide contains an even stronger neurotoxin, malathion. (Yes, that’s the same pesticide many communities banned a decade ago.)
Needless to say, these pesticides aren’t something you’d normally want to expose your kids to. Pyrethrin exposure has been linked to asthma and other breathing problems in children, as well as skin rashes. They’re also probable endocrine disruptors and may raise breast cancer risk by elevating estrogen levels. Lindane, the oldest neurotoxin used for lice treatment and the active ingredient in Kwell, has been banned in 52 countries and restricted in 33 others for causing serious side effects, including seizures, stiff neck, lethargy, and slurred speech.
What you really might want to know, though, is that not only are these lice treatments potentially toxic—they don’t even work.
The manufacturers won’t tell you that, and your child’s doctor probably won’t either. But research published this spring in the Journal of Medical Entomology revealed that 99.6 percent of the lice found in the United States are “super lice” resistant to pyrethrins and permethrin. It makes sense: Just as bacteria mutate to make an end run around an antibiotic, so too do fast-reproducing head lice, which mutate to survive the neurotoxic onslaught.
So what do you do?
Let’s start with a few facts you need to know to understand just what you’re up against.
- Lice are minuscule. A full-grown louse is the size of a pinhead. During the nymph stage, which lasts seven to 10 days, they’re practically invisible.
- Lice are fast. Entomologists say they can crawl through hair at 12 miles a minute.
- Lice are fertile. A female head louse lays about 10 eggs—known as nits—a day and up to 200 during her life cycle. That’s 10 eggs a day from just one bug.
- Nits stick hard. Lice treatment products often promise to dissolve the “glue” that attaches each nit to the hair shaft. But honestly, it’s not glue—it’s more like cement. Try combing out every single nit, as you’re instructed to do, and you’ll see what I mean.
So how do you get rid of head lice—hopefully without poisoning your child or the environment?
check your child’s head and comb out nits every day for at least two weeks. Some studies show good old nit-picking to be the most effective treatment of all.
Good Luck and wishing you all a clean and fresh school year!