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Kaua'i woman a world-class uku 'buster'

Has brought relief to 3,600 families

By Anne O'Malley
Kaua'i Island News
January 28, 2005

Millions of people around the world suffer from infestations of head lice -- at least 10 million children per year -- and both the prescribed and over-the-counter remedies simply don't cut it, says a renowned expert.  Not only that, but those remedies, so easily available, may be extremely harmful to the health of the user.

So when get 'uku, who you gonna call? UKUBUSTERS, that's who!

That would be Karen Tilley of UKUBUSTERS Head Lice Removal and Education Service, headquartered in Princeville.  She's a world expert on the removal of Pediculosis capitis, the wee misery causer about the size of a sesame seed that needs blood sucked from the human scalp to cling to its adopted turf -- symptoms are severe itching.

Tilley's been on TV and she's been written about in numerous national and major metropolitan publications in the U.S. and Canada.  The reason she knows so much about head lice is that she experienced it firsthand -- twice.

"I was a former chronic long term sufferer in 1991 and again in 1996," says Tilley, a single mother back then.

"Nothing I did worked to remove them and I suffered extreme anguish.  Since nothing worked, the problem would not go away."

Tilley says it was like a disease that she could not cure, the products she used simply didn't kill the infestations.  She felt shame and embarrassment that try as hard as she might, she could not get rid of the lice, resorting to wearing a hat in fear that she might give spread the infestation to others.

"Eventually, I discovered the right equipment and safe method [of removal] through the Internet," she says.

She's brought relief to over 3,600 families since then, relying on natural products and due diligence.  This respected expert gives consultations and treatments and is educating the public about this communicable disease.

That's right, communicable.  How do lice spread?

"Head lice spread through head to head contact from hair to hair," she says.  "they do not jump -- they do not have wings."

The business of no wings is good news.  The bad news is that there are still plenty of ways for lice to spread.

That can happen by sharing a comb or brush with someone that's infested, or sleeping with that person.  Children have few boundaries about body contact with other children, and often you'll see them with their heads literally together as they play.

Women get lice more easily than men, usually from their lice-infested children, without even knowing it, and in fact, 80- to 90 percent of mothers of infested children will contract the head lice from their offspring.

"It's just the nature of holding a child on the lap," says Tilley.

Tilley's misery set her on a path that's led to more discoveries about lice and the treatment often recommended by people who should know better.

On of the common treatments of lice infestation is the pesticide Lindane.  It was contained in at least one formerly commonly prescribed head lice shampoo called KWELL, a product that was pulled off the market.

There is now a generic brand of shampoo that uses Lindane, is quite expensive, and is available by prescription from a different pharmaceutical company.

California recognized the problem with Lindane by 2000, when then-Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that would prohibit any product from being used or sold in the state if used for treatment of lice and scabies in human beings and containing the pesticide Lindane.

The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website explains with Lindane as follows:

"Lindane products, such as shampoos and creams, are rinsed off after use into the public sewers.  Even after treatment, lindane persists and passes into creeks, rivers, lakes and oceans.

"Lindane is toxic in the water even in very small amounts.  In fact, a single treatment of head lice or scabies with lindane pollutes 6 million gallons of water, the equivalent of 300 swimming pools.

"Lindane lasts for a long time in the environment, where it can contaminate the tissues of fish and other animals.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency has declared lindane to be a persistent bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical."

The best method -- and it seems the most effective one -- is totally natural says Tilley, who teaches the importance of removing every last nit and louse from the hair.  This is key to curing head lice, she says -- not pesticidal application.

Her process involves wet nit combing and then nitpicking.  She provides professional grade head lice removal equipment, a guide she's written called "The Karen Tilley Program of Head Lice Removal" and phone consultations.

Testimonials flow from grateful clients such as Donna Farley, a certified nurse-midwife who sent her a note after dealing with a chronic head lice infestation on of her children had.

"Karen," wrote Farley, "you are the 'Uku Fairy!  Thank you so much.

"I had tried everything suggested and nothing worked.  It wasn't until you came and 'did your thing' that we were cured."

Although she protects herself while serving clients, occasionally Tilley may get infected.

"I cure myself in two hours instead of six months of constant struggle," she says.  "This is what parents learn from me to help them.

Tilley says she loves her work, of helping children and their mothers remove a terrible nightmare from their lives.  She feels its important to spread the word about Lindane, for parents to discontinue using head lice pesticides.

"It might sound funny, too, but my favorite clients are the people that've had it the longest.

"I feel like I'm a ghost buster.  I feel like I put the siren on and I'm off on a mission to bust the bugs."

Tilley offers two types of lice removal kits, consulting, hands-on delousing and her book.  She may be reached at 808-335-LICE.  Her website is


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