They aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease, but head lice have got to be the bane of every parent’s existence. If you discover your child has head lice – don’t panic, there’s a new treatment!
Head louse are tiny parasitic insects that live among human hair and they are difficult to get rid of. But now there is a new prescription treatment in the battle against lice, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)
“We took families that had heavy infestations of head lice and we were clearing these kids, and some adults, with one treatment,” says dermatologist Dow Stough, who has a private practice in Hot Springs, Ark., and who performed clinical trials of the new product. “I was like, wow, they really have something.”
Clinical studies showed that, Natroba Topical Suspension, got rid of lice after just one treatment. The new prescription hair rinse was approved by the FDA in January and went on sale in August. In clinical trials, 84 percent of participants were lice-free after 14 days. That’s compared with 44 percent of people in the study treated with Nix, today’s most commonly prescribed head lice product. Lice treated with Natroba ingest the rinse’s insecticide, spinosad, and start shaking. They literally shake themselves to death. According to Natroba’s website, safety in pediatric patients below the age of 4 years has not been established.
Barbara Frankowski, pediatrician and author of the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on lice, says parents shouldn’t give up on the popular over-the-counter product- Nix – either. Nix has a proven safety record. “If it works, why drive up the cost of medical care by using something way more expensive?” For families who prefer not to use pesticides, applying petroleum jelly or Cetaphil weekly for three weeks with careful combing works. “Tedious and time consuming, but doable,” she says.
If non-prescription techniques do fail, then Frankowski says a pediatrician can prescribe a product such as Ulesfia, Ovide, or Natroba.
Prescription products are more costly than the over-the counter products. Natroba costs the average family about $36 when covered by insurance, or $219 without coverage. Meanwhile, a family pack of Nix lice treatment sells for about $15.
One reason that some over-the–counter products have become less effective is that, over the years, louse have been able to build up a resistance to permethrin-based insecticides. The insects have yet to develop resistance to new treatments like Natroba.
Signs of Head Lice: Although they are very small, you can actually see lice. The lice eggs are called nits. They are tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp until they hatch. Nits look a little like dandruff but they can’t be removed by brushing them off.
Lice eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they’re laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear and continues to be firmly attached to the hair shaft. This is the stage when it’s easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg-shell is moving further away from the scalp. The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, but they can survive up to 2 days off the scalp.
Lice bite and can cause itching and scratching, but it can take weeks before your kid begins itching. If the scratching becomes excessive, your child may develop a bacterial infection. Your pediatrician can prescribe an oral antibiotic as treatment.
Lice are highly contagious and can spread quickly. If you discover your little one has lice, be sure and notify your child’s school.
Kidshealth.org offers these tips for preventing re-infestation.
- Wash all bed linens and clothing that’s been recently worn by anyone in your home who’s infested in very hot water (130° F [54.4° C]), then put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Have bed linens, clothing, and stuffed animals and plush toys that can’t be washed dry-cleaned. Or, put them in airtight bags for 2 weeks.
- Vacuum carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car).
- Soak hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You can also wash them in hot water or just throw them away.
Because lice are easily passed from person to person in the same house, bedmates and infested family members will also need treatment to prevent the lice from coming back.
Also there are some Don’t you should be aware of:
- Don’t use a hair dryer on your child’s hair after applying any of the currently available scalp treatments because some contain flammable ingredients.
- Don’t use a cream rinse or shampoo/conditioner combination before applying lice medication.
- Don’t wash your child’s hair for 1 to 2 days after using a medicated treatment.
- Don’t use sprays or hire a pest control company to try to get rid of the lice, as they can be harmful.
- Don’t use the same medication more than three times on one person. If it doesn’t seem to be working, your doctor may recommend another medication.
- Don’t use more than one head lice medication at a time.
Removal by hand:
If your child is 2 years old or younger, you should not use medicated lice treatments. You’ll need to remove the nits and lice by hand.
To remove lice and nits by hand, use a fine-tooth comb on your child’s wet, conditioned hair every 3 to 4 days for 2 weeks after the last live louse was seen. Wetting the hair beforehand is recommended because it temporarily immobilizes the lice and the conditioner makes it easier to get a comb through the hair.
Wet combing is also an alternative to pesticide treatments in older kids. Though petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, or olive oil are sometimes used in an attempt to suffocate head lice, these treatments have not been proven to be effective.
Lice can be persistent, so be sure to follow the directions on any product you use. If the over-the–counter products don’t work, you can ask your pediatrician about Natroba Topical Suspension. Clinical results, so far, look excellent for this new treatment.