With school back in full swing, parents are on alert for one of the most dreaded of all school-related ailments: head lice.
For a barely visible bug, head lice have garnered a villainous reputation among school-aged kids. Added to the everyday fears about head lice is the news that in many areas, head lice have become resistant to traditional over-the-counter treatments used to get rid of them.
The vast majority of head lice treatments on store shelves today contain either permethrin or pyrethrum, two pesticides that used to be very good at killing lice. But in a report released in the fall, lead researcher Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsvillle, found lice that are resistant to current pesticide methods of treatment in 25 states. It seems that just as some bacteria are evolving to become resistant to antibiotics, so too are lice evolving to be immune to today's treatments.
These new strains of treatment-resistant lice have been dubbed "super lice" by the media, and they are striking a super-sized level of fear into the hearts of parents everywhere.
So if over-the-counter methods aren't effective, what can parents do to get rid of lice, especially super-lice, when they strike?
Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives treatments that can help banish head lice. And the good news is that they are three chemical-free so they are likely healthy for your kid and the planet anyway.
1. Essential oils. Many parents have had good results when using either tea tree oil or neem oil to get rid of lice. Just mix in a few drops with your child's shampoo and let sit on the hair for 30 minutes to one hour.
2. Hot air. The FDA recently cleared a medical device that uses hot air to kill lice. The device, called AirAllé, applies heat at about 138 degrees close to the scalp to kill lice and their eggs. It costs around $150, and you have to find a lice-removal professional to do it for you, but in many cases it's effective in just one treatment.
3. Nit-picking. When all else fails, the tried and true method of nit picking will also work. MNN blogger Kimi Harris recommends a special nit comb, some conditioner and a lot of patience to get the job done.