Sunday, September 2, 2012

What I've learned about lice

I'm not currently dealing with this problem myself. However, I've read about this issue on several other blogs lately. Consider this a public service announcement with an alternative way to treat lice that is not commonly found on the internet.

When we first got MissArguePants and her sister TurtleTurtle in our home, they came with lice. Bad lice. In fact, these precious girls told me that they didn't remember at time in their lives when they didn't have lice. They knew how to scratch their heads so they wouldn't get caught at school. They also shared with me horrific ways their bio family had treated said head lice in the past. (I believe the worst I heard was kerosene or some other horribly flammable liquid.) Nothing would kill the lice.

Because we have to take our kids to the doctor within 72 hours of placement, I was immediately given an Rx for lice pesticide. (All the drugs you commonly get OTC are pesticides.) I followed all the instructions to a "T". Still...the lice remained. All the doctor would do is prescribe another round of the same drug that didn't work the first time.

My brother is a doctor. I consulted him. He told me to go back to my pediatrician and ask for ivermectin. I did. The episode did NOT go well. Needless to say, the doctor and I did not see eye to eye on this issue and she just wrote an Rx for the same drug that had failed me twice.

I started to use my Google degree. I scoured the internet for any information I could find. My brother told me that the FDA had just approved benzyl alcohol for the treatment in drug resistant lice. Unfortunately, I knew my chances of getting an Rx for that were close to zilch.

I happened to find a link mentioning the idea that the alcohol in Listerine would work the same as benzyl alcohol. At this time, I cannot find the exact link that I found so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Here's the science behind it:
Studies of the effect of Ulesfia Lotion (brand name of Rx) on native, captured lice suggest that benzyl alcohol inhibits lice from closing their respiratory spiracles, allowing the vehicle to obstruct the spiracles and causing the lice to asphyxiate.

The reason lice don't die when you wash your hair is because, simply put, they can hold their breath. They breathe out of spiracles on the sides of their bodies. They can close these and stay alive for several hours without breathing. Home remedies like mayonnaise and excessive amounts of hair gel sort of work at asphyxiating the lice. However, they are very messy and not super effective.

Benzyl alcohol keeps them from closing the spiracles and the lice drown when you wash your hair.

I decided to try Listerine on my girls. I poured it directly on their dry hair. (I didn't want the lice to close their spiracles before I poured on the Listerine.) Yes, you have to be very careful to keep the Listerine out of the child's eyes. I saturated their hair well and then put it up in a shower cap. I placed several washrags around the inside of the shower cap so the Listerine wouldn't run out and get all over. I had the girls wear the shower caps for around 30 minutes while they continued bathing like normal.

After it sat for awhile I helped the girls rinse their hair. I was nothing short of amazed the first time. Mind you, I had used the Rx multiple times and I had used the nit comb for hours and hours nightly pulling as many lice and nits out as I possibly could. The first time I rinsed their hair after the Listerine, there were at least 50-100 lice in the bathtub with the first girl.

Because the Listerine can only kill live lice, I knew that I wasn't done yet. I used the nit comb quickly that night on her hair but I wasn't too worried about it. I simply made plans to treat again after the eggs on their heads hatched 2 days later. (I recommend treating the second time 2-3 days after the first. Then, depending on what you're seeing for dead lice, you can treat again in 2-3 days or wait up to a week.)

Two days later I treated again. This time when rinsing there were a lot fewer dead lice. I combed through with a nit comb. But again, I did not spend hours!!! Using Listerine cuts way down on that horrible time suck of a process!! In fact, it's not even exactly necessary if you treat with Listerine until the lice are gone.

I waited a week after the second treatment before I did it one more time. THERE WERE NO LICE!!! My girls, for possibly the first time in years, were lice free. The only side effect they suffered from was minty fresh hair.

One of the biggest benefits of treating lice in this manner is that it is not a drug. Lice will not become resistant to it. And you don't have to worry about putting pesticides on your child. And, if you're a foster parent, you don't have to get a prescription or permission to treat this way. It's so easy and it solves a problem quickly.

Yes, I still recommend bagging up stuffed animals and pillows that may have been infected. Yes, wash the bedding in hot water. But, for the most part, lice want a human host. If they're happy where they are at, they're not going to leave. We never had anyone else in the house become infected during the entire time we were trying to get the problem under control with our girls.

I believe wholeheartedly in this method. When TT came home from school with lice last year, I immediately reached for the Listerine. He had a pretty bad case – any kid at all can get them! Listerine to the rescue! He was lice free in two weeks!! (I actually think we got them all the first time and the little bit of nit combing I did got all the eggs.)

Lice is NO FUN! I hope this can help someone.


Melissa said...

I have used Listerine several times for treating lice and it ALWAYS works. I do add one other step. I put olive oil on the hair over night, covered with a shower cap. This plugs the lice air holes as well, and moisturizes the hair that has been dried out by the Listerine.

Teresa said...

We have been fortunate to never have had lice, but I'm so glad I know this trick now- especially with 4 starting school next week!

Anonymous said...

lmbo..."one side affect..minty fresh hair!" cracks me up ty so much for the tip

i recently tried listerine as a bug repellant (sworn by my mother to work) and i'm not finding it useful and a bit to sticky lol but will try if we ever get the hair bugs


Mitzy said...

Great advice, I am filing it away for the inevitable day that I will need it.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the great advice. After we accepted our first placement, but before they actually got here, I was praying that they didn't have lice. Luckily they didn't but this is great info to file away.

Karen said...

Cherub Mamma,
I don't think I've ever commented on any of your posts before, even though I've followed you for awhile now. Tonight though, I have to comment. I am an RA (Residence Advisor or "Mom") to 5 first year students (at my Christian university, and my best friend here is my co-RA). Tonight we discovered that two of our first year girls have been hiding the fact that one of them has had lice...for a month!! I immediately thought of this post, and we went to the store right away to get Listerine. We're now waiting the 30 mins, and I'm praying this works! Thank you so much for posting this (and all your other posts!), Karen

Topher Morton said...

Here's a great description of how Ulesfia works,