Talk about head lice and people either walk away or drag
you to a corner of the room to share intimate details of their own lice wars.
This scenario isn’t just limited to children and parents – but includes some
pediatricians who see head lice as a common nuisance, yet continue to prescribe
malathion to fight the little
Sponsored by the National Pediculosis Association®
(NPA), a non profit organization headquartered in Needham, MA,
Jesse’s Project was launched this year
to protect the growing number of children diagnosed with cancer, brain tumors,
asthma, allergies, epilepsy and AIDS, from unnecessary exposure to potentially
harmful chemicals contained in pesticidal head lice treatments and sprays.
Pesticides in general can be harmful to a healthy child, but certainly must be
avoided for those who have already been diagnosed with serious illness. Jesse’s
Project reaches out to educate parents and remind physicians that there are
children for whom a non-chemical approach to head lice is required.
Jesse was a young boy who suffered from leukemia and died after chemotherapy and
a successful bone marrow transplant. His physicians attributed his relapse to an
unknown chemical trigger. It was only then that his mother Teresia thought about
the treatments for head lice. She was unaware of any risks and, to this day,
feels great anguish that she inadvertently exposed him to these chemicals. “I
thought of the treatments as medicated shampoos and the idea that they were
actually pesticides just had not occurred to me. Nobody warned me. I would never
have taken even the slightest risk after all that Jesse had been through with
Just the idea that these exposures may have contributed to his death in any way
is agonizing to Teresia. But don’t look for her to sit idly by feeling sorry for
herself. Deborah Altschuler, President of the National Pediculosis Association
says, “Teresia shows remarkable courage and has taken every mother’s worst
nightmare and turned it into an opportunity to make sure other mothers have the
information and tools they need to make the safest choices possible.”
Together with the NPA, Teresia attended the Academy of Pediatrics Conference in
Boston in October 2002, to spread the message to pediatricians and other health
professionals that all children are vulnerable to pesticidal treatments for head
lice, but there will always be children like Jesse, for whom a non-chemical
approach is the only choice.
The AAP guidelines on head lice in
the school setting unfortunately urge that children be allowed to attend school
with lice and nits. Their position statement acknowledges lice resistance and
the risk of chemical treatments but recommends them anyway; ignores advances in
combing tools; and fails to provide safe alternatives for the children at higher
risk. The good news is that there were many pediatricians in attendance at the
Conference who choose not to follow the AAP Guidelines and are eager to avoid
chemical treatments whenever possible.
In spite of the serious nature of Jesse’s Project, the NPA, Teresia and Boss
Louse™ along with Big Nazo
Puppets, didn’t hesitate to poke fun while teaching about head lice at the
conference. Boss Louse stars in the NPA’s new
educational video, which teaches parents how to screen, detect head lice and
nits as early as possible and remove them safely and effectively. The video is
part of the
Head Lice and Nit Removal Kit, the first non-chemical treatment.
The NPA wants to acknowledge Teresia and PJ Cross, Patty Battle-Mutter, RN, MPH, along with Erminio and
Richard of Big Nazo Puppets for their help in bringing Jesse's Project and its
important message to the AAP Conference.