Hot Air May Be an Effective Nonchemical Treatment of Head Lice
Wednesday, November 15th 2006
November 13, 2006 -- Of 6 different methods used to eliminate head lice, a hot-air device was most effective, according to the results of a study reported in the November issue of Pediatrics.
"Each year millions of children are infested with head lice, a condition known as pediculosis, which is responsible for tens of millions of lost school days," write Brad M. Goates, MS, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues. "Head lice have evolved resistance to many of the currently used pediculicides; therefore, an effective new treatment for head lice is needed. In this study, we examined the effectiveness of several methods that use hot air to kill head lice and their eggs."
The investigators tested 6 different treatment methods, each delivering hot air to the scalp in a different way, on 169 infested individuals. They evaluated how well these methods kill lice and their eggs in situ, and they performed follow-up inspections to determine whether the sixth, most successful, method could cure head louse infestations.
Although all 6 methods killed at least 88% of eggs, they showed more variable success in killing hatched lice. The most successful method, using a custom-built machine called the LouseBuster, resulted in nearly 100% mortality of eggs and 80% mortality of hatched lice, even when operated at a comfortable temperature (slightly cooler than a standard blow-dryer). Virtually all subjects were cured of head lice when examined 1 week after treatment with the LouseBuster, and no adverse effects were observed.
"Our findings demonstrate that one 30-minute application of hot air has the potential to eradicate head lice infestations," the authors write. "Hot air is an effective, safe treatment and one to which lice are unlikely to evolve resistance."
The authors suggest that the LouseBuster could be an institutionally based machine operated by healthcare providers, school administrators, or trained parents and other volunteers. Although effective use of the LouseBuster is not difficult, they note that it does require a little practice to perfect.
"The advantage of an institutionally based device, particularly for schools, is that it could be used to simultaneously treat all children with head lice, minimizing the problem of reinfestation," the authors conclude. "In our experience, this would be particularly useful in the case of children with parents who cannot afford the time, expense, or discipline required to treat head lice effectively in their home."
The University of Utah, Primary Children's Medical Center Foundation, the Utah Centers of Excellence Program, and the National Pediculosis Association funded this study. The National Pediculosis Association also provided free LiceMeister combs.
Footnote from Ideal Health:
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