Don't Bug Out, but Most OTC Lice Treatments Don't Really Work Anymore

Overuse of common lice treatments have rendered them ineffective, according to a new study.
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Ugh, lice. Those little creepy-crawlers can do more to ruin your week than a stomach bug. You see one louse, and the next thing you know, your house looks like the scene from E.T. when the men in the moon suits move in.

As if treating lice isn't fun enough, and with lice likely to spread now that school is in full swing, a new study in the journal Pediatric Dermatology notes a marked decline in the effectiveness of one of the most common forms of OTC treatments.

Specifically, permethrin or synergized pyrethrins (also known as pyrethroids), which are listed as the active ingredients on the popular anti-lice product I used in the past during an outbreak in our home, don't work as well as they used to, likely due to overuse.

The study also noted the potential toxicity of lindane, and advised against using products that contain it. Researchers instead recommend that parents use prescription products deemed safe and effective, including those that contain malathion, benzyl alcohol, spinosad, and topical ivermectin.

Know how to properly check and treat your child for head lice. Video courtesy of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

"The lesson we should learn is that those products that do remain effective, which are available by prescription, should be used judiciously so that they do not suffer the fate that has befallen the pyrethroids," lead author Dr. Ellen Koch said in a press release.

Study authors further noted that use of home remedies like petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, and essential oils are not advisable, as they have not been shown to be effective, and may even lead to adverse reactions.

The bottom line: It seems when you detect lice in your home, a phone call to the doctor is in order. Otherwise, you could end up wasting time and money (and sanity) trying to rid your kiddos of, let's face it, the biggest little pests ever.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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