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Head Lice Remedies

Get tips for getting rid of this yucky condition that's common in kids.

Wed, 22 Aug 2012|

-Okay, it's not a topic people really like to talk about, but it's very important because it's a big problem in schools. We're talking about head lice, and there are a lot of misconceptions about these annoying little bugs that are a real pain to get rid off. And here to sort it all out for us pediatrician Dr. JJ Levenstein who has been named one of the best doctors in America, and we're so glad that you've come back. It's good to see you. -Thank you. Thank you, Juli. -Thanks for being here. For starters, I think we need to clear something up. I think a lot of people think that a child or an adult who has lice has poor high and that's why they have it, but that's not the case. -That's simply not true, although lice is more prevalent in crowded conditions like schools-- -Uh-huh. -or crowded households. Lice knows no bounds. So, children from every socioeconomic and every cultural background are susceptible to being infested with lice. -Okay. So, while some children might have symptoms of itchiness, sometimes there are no symptoms. And also, what should parents be looking for? -Well, I think they should look at the places on the scalp where lice like to go. So, the typical locations are behind the ears, the nape of the neck, and the hairs on the back of the neck. Those are the strike zones for most lice. And so, examining they hair for active crawling lice or looking for nits close to the scalp, which look like tiny grains of adhered rice-- -Very, very small. -Very, very, very small. -Okay. -are where the money is. -Okay. Now, let's talk about what to do when you do find some because I know a lot over-the-counter remedies don't really work. -Uh-huh. Uh-huh. -Well, first of all, don't panic. There is help out there. -Okay. -And it does require a lot of commitment on a parent's part to help treat lice. It's a process. Okay. -So, over-the-counter-- -We hear about Rid a lot. -Exactly. -Does that work? -Rid and Nix are 2 of the over-the-counter remedies that actually do work most of the time. They're based on pyrethrin or permethrin, which are effective against treatment of lice that are not resistant. -Okay. -And so, it involves shampooing with a special shampoo-- -Uh-huh. -with the very most important premise of treating lice successfully is to get rid of the nits, the eggs that the lice have laid. -And you really have to go in there and pick 'em out individually, which is a tedious process, but necessary. -Exactly. -And the word nitpick-- -Right. -originated-- -Nitpicker. -from that. And so, some combs exist that actually have enough of the close proximity of the bristles to actually come out active living lice, but the nits themselves are adherent to the scalp and-- -Right. -to the hairs and they must literally be picked out by your fingers. That's the most effective way. So, after a parent shampoos with one of the over-the-counter preparations, hair should be divided up. These clips are great. -Little tiny sections, right? -Yeah. 1-inch sections and literally with magnifying glasses, a bright light, and a lot of patience, go through strand by strand and comb through and pick through with your fingers. Clean the comb periodically to get rid of the accumulated nits and go through your child's hair 100%. -Now, there are services that will do this for you. I was reading about a company here in New York City Hair Fair-- -Correct. -is that they'll come to your house or you can to their salon. Pricey though. -Pricey though, but given that there's a large time commitment here or the parents esthetically or just emotionally can't jump and dive into this process. -And these are some of the products. -Exactly. -They provide a wide range of products to help not only with treatment of the child, but also to help prevent lice in the household. -All right. So, Dr. JJ., what do we do with the sheets, the hats, the pillowcases, the toys, everything that came in contact with the child who has lice? -Well, first thing is heat. Heat removes or kills most of the nits. -Okay. -So, putting anything that you can laundry in a hot washer and a hot dryer will take care of launderable or washable items. The things that you can't wash, precious toys, big pillows, just bag them garbage bags or trash bags and take away from human contact for a couple of days. -And they die off? -And the lice will die, the nits will die and then you can just vacuum them and you're good as new. -All right, let's talk about alternative treatments or home remedies. There are some things that actually work. -There are many and there is no real science and no large study that has proven one to be more efficacious than the other, but anecdotally, we hear from parents about successes with certain things with certain household items. -And you have some? -I do. Mayonnaise is one of the-- -Really. -Believe it or not. You might feel like coleslaw for a while, but actually if you take Hellmann's mayonnaise or Best Foods' mayonnaise,-- -Uh-huh. -not a light mayonnaise. -Okay, the real stuff. -The real stuff-- and smother the hair, put a shower cap on and leave on for several hours and then wash out with shampoo, the principle is that you suffocate the lice and the nits, but this should be reapplied probably a week later when the nits that may be left over hatch. -And it does good things for your hair too. -It does. It's a beautiful conditioner. -Okay And Vaseline same kind of thing? It smothers them. -It does. It does. It's very, very difficult to remove though. -Yeah. -So, it takes multiple washings. And of course, if you have to use a sort of harsher shampoo to get the Vaseline out, that may irritate the child, irritate the scalp and cause a whole new round of itching for another reason. -You mentioned using like a Dawn dishwasher soap. -Dishwashing soap tends to have more detergent properties, which will take out these heavier oils-- -Okay. -and certainly nothing but petroleum oil should be used. Other oils that are motor oils and those are-- those are toxic. So, we wouldn't use, you know. -Exactly. -20-40 pint full of oil. -Okay. Now, you've brought some Prell and some oil. How do those mix together? -Well, there's a concoction that Stanford University Children's Hospital has recommended that includes using a blend of usually Prell shampoo because it emulsifies the oils well-- -Uh-huh. -with eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil and this is shampooed into the hair and left on for a few hours and then shampooed out. -Tough on the eyes though. -Very though of the eyes. -Eucalyptus. -It will be very, very difficult because the oils are volatile. So, there are specific instructions actually on their website that will walk you through this approach. -Okay. If you've tried the prescription things or the over-the-counter,-- -Uh-huh. -you've tried home remedies, nothing's working, when should you contact a doctor? -A good rule of thumb is if you've gone 2 rounds of medication either over-the-counter or home remedies and you've really gone at it with the nitpicking and the lies still come back or they're still viable, then you should call your physician for a prescription. -Okay. -And finally, is there a way to prevent them altogether? Because I know it's tough in school, but kids-- is there something your kids can do, can you do anything? -I think there are a couple of principles to live by. One is don't share combs, brushes, hair ornaments, and hats with other kids especially in the face of lice outbreak. -They don't really jump though? -They don't jump,-- -Okay. -But they can live on a surface. And if it's close enough to human hair, a louse can crawl over, not fly over, [unk] over. -Got you. -Uh-huh. The other principle is that if your child is going to a batting cage, if your child is riding a bike or going to a sports arena where they need to use a helmet, bring their own helmet and not use the helmets that have been used by other children. -Very good advice, Dr. JJ. Thank you so much. You cleared up a lot of the misconceptions-- -Great. -about lice. We appreciate your coming in. And if you like more information from Dr. JJ about head lice, you can check out her website, www.mdmoms.com. Thanks for watching Parents TV, your source for the best information for your growing family. -Thank you for watching Parents TV, our families our lives.