Q. My son's
family has been battling head lice for over a month. Any
A. Are they sure it's head lice? It wouldn't be the first
time that natural hair debris (dandruff, for example) has been
mistaken for nits (louse eggs).
Call the tollfree help line, 1-800-446-4672, of the
National Pediculosis Association (NPA) in Newton, Mass. Its staff
can help you over the phone and will mail you information, including
a picture of nits, adult lice and the normal stuff found on the
scalp that gets mistaken for nits.
The information, including the picture, is also on its
The most effective way to control head lice is through frequent
and thorough inspections of children's hair under a bright light or
If you spot a nit, comb it out with a good nit comb. NPA
recommends the LiceMeister, which retails for around $10 and is
carried by some pharmacies. It can also be ordered by calling toll
free 1-888-542-3634. The LiceMeister, unlike some other nit combs,
can withstand boiling water.
The NPA doesn't recommend chemical pesticides.
``Chasing lice with chemicals has failed,'' says Executive
Director Deborah Altschuler. None are 100 percent effective and
Altschuler considers some, particularly those containing Lindane,
Head lice are transmitted from head to head and can spread
rapidly through a preschool or elementary school.
Children pass them on to their parents, who may unwittingly pass
them back to their kids or on to other people.
``We're all vulnerable,'' Altschuler says.
Lice have nothing to do with cleanliness.
Head lice are human parasites and feed on human blood. They don't
live on pets, and the adult louse can't survive off a human head for
You only need to vacuum your furniture to pick up stray hairs
that may have a nit attached.
It's not necessary to bag anything, or to spray it with
chemicals, which Altschuler likens to ``an elephant gun in regard to
If you do find nits, the head they were found on needs to be
checked every day.
If you go for a week without finding anything, you may be home
free. Even so, check periodically. It's easy to miss one or two and
that's all it takes to keep the infestation going.
If it's easier to check hair when it's wet, that's fine.
Sometimes an application of conditioner makes it easier to comb
through thick, curly hair while you're hunting for the lousy
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