Head lice treatments in US are failing

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/14/head-lice-treatments-in-us-are.html

1 Like

Doesn’t shaving work? Or is that to extreme or stigmatizing a choice?


I have told my daughter that is the next logical step.

I do not understand why kids seem to get lice so much more often. I can remember ONE lice outbreak in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District during my tenure.


Silicon and synthetic oils do seem less dramatic to me. (And that’s without the pesticides.)


“Overexposure to insecticides has bred resistance in the parasites, making it harder than ever to treat infestation.”

The good news just keeps coming today.


My kids and wife all ended up with lice twice last year and the year before. I got em the first time, but not the second.

The first time we all got oil & comb out with tea-oil from a place. Expensive if you have the combing done professionally, and messy, but it worked. You have to saturate your hair with oil and comb it out every night for… ten days I think. Not sure why synthetic oil would be better… Supposedly the young bugs suffocate in the oil, and ten days is enough that all existing eggs will have hatched, while the comb-outs ensure no new eggs are layed. This was near chicago in the winter so we put all the stuffed animals, etc, outside for two weeks to freeze any lice to death.

The second time it was just my wife and older son. I shaved his head and mine pretty close, which made his comb out very quick and cheap. Different place helped us, and used olive oil.

Both of these worked.

To do it just with shaving you are supposed to get the hair to 1/8th of an inch to ensure the bugs can’t live on it.

Because lice are animals like us they are pretty well immune to anything that won’t kill us. You can go swimming for hours in chlorine pools, and they are as happy as you are. Specific pesticides, to which they are evolving, or something that gets them when they are young and weak, or total habitat destruction.

My mother tells me we had them twice as little kids, I don’t remember it at all.

Gah, my head is itching now just thinking about this.


Not knowledgeable but I would presume rubbing alcohol would be quite harsh on the scalp. I would go with the oil treatment.


I suggested shaving to my wife but she was adamant that we should give the kids away to gypsies before we shave their heads. Some kind of sexism cos she was fine with me shaving my own head - apparently its traumatic for girls (see Sinead O’Connor).

The counter argument is that getting rid of the lice without shaving is shockingly difficult. The general approach is that if the shampoo kills them them you shampoo twice - the second time between 7-10 days after the first. The problem is that if you miss an egg (nit) then you will have to rinse and repeat the process.

Combing is very effective. Provided you dont miss one almost microscopic nit hiding in a complete head of hair.

This is why I endorse the shaving approach. Especially for public lice.


I shaved my three kids once when we had a lice outbreak. It helps that they were all boys.

100% effective, single treatment, no follow-up required.

As a bonus, my kids all hated going to the barber for regular haircuts. This got us off the hook for a solid six months.


BTW to DIY this you need a special lice comb. The ones we got were steel, had pretty thick steel tines with gaps between them not much thicker than a hair. They are maybe $10. Another $10 for a bottle of olive oil… and a bunch of extra laundry.

The professional option was… eh $100-$300 depending on how much hair you have. Maybe $50 or so after shaving to 1/4 inch.

So, yea, happily I have two boys, an electric clipper, and they found my shaved head funny enough to tolerate me shaving them.


Yes, the dimethicone oil treatment smothers them. It’s sold under the product name “LiceMD.” You’ll also need a metal nit comb. Since my kid was in kindergarten, we’ve had lice FOUR TIMES.


Sure, it’s a hassle, but I think that people make lice treatment seem more difficult than it really is because they try lots of less-effective measures which are marketed. Even olive oil with an essential oil such as tea tree, lavender, clove, etc usually works. Or buzz your scalp clean of hair which takes all of but five minutes.


I just finished dealing with lice in my kid’s hair. I found that the comb wasn’t enough - for whatever reason, it was leaving nits behind, and I resorted to going through her hair over and over and cutting out strands with nits left on. It’s maddening work, and fortunately my eyesight is good enough to find them. I need to remember to do spot checks from now on any time she has a sleepover or goes to camp.

1 Like

"I’ve always wondered if plain old rubbing alcohol could kill lice and nits. Apart from accidentally setting your kid’s hair on fire, it seems worth a try. "

All I see is upside.


My kid had lice four times. We used combing, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, and a hair dryer (I had to buy one). Followed up with more combing for a week, plus vacuuming and all bedclothes in the dryer. It is quite effective. People think you have to do an entire load of laundry, but the dryer on high heat will do just fine.


What can’t dimethicone do?

Its applications range from contact lenses and medical devices to elastomers; it is also present in shampoos (as dimethicone makes hair shiny and slippery), food (antifoaming agent), caulking, lubricants and heat-resistant tiles.

That’s a ridiculous range of applications (almost like asbestos) and it’s non-toxic (unlike asbestos).

Over here it’s commonly used to treat baby colic (as drops given several times a day), dimethicone is supposed to break apart gas bubbles and help with gastrointestinal pain that way. I don’t know how effective it really is, but it’s harmless and cheap. It gives some hope and at least it is something you can do as a tired parent.


Unlucky! I had lice once. Admittedly as an adult, which was even more fun. (Yes, the nit-nurse passed me by many times at school - is that just the UK? Then an anonymous friend’s child ‘helped’ with that unwanted life experience)

The full sized ones are bloody dramatic when they drop to the ground and scarper, even without the breeding of super-ticks like you guys are doing. :slight_smile:

Pretty sure me and my (then) wife then used all the treatments. All of them.


You want to panic a room full of parents? Scream, “LICE!”

We should do what Europe is doing for many things.


Heh. :slight_smile:

Head-shaving is traditionally a way of shaming women – as an example, it was done to quisling women after WWII. It’s commonly interpreted as de-gendering. Even women who don’t know the history know what it’s symbolic of. O’Connor played off that symbolism by defiantly shaving her own head.

So yeah, it is sexism, but the other way 'round.