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HISTORY OF THE AIRALLÉ DEVICE

The AirAllé® device concept originated in the laboratory of Dr. Dale Clayton at the University of Utah, where he is a professor in the Department of Biology. While researching the effects of live lice on birds, he discovered that while he could successfully culture the lice in his lab at Oxford University in England, he had great difficulty keeping them alive on captive birds when he moved his lab to the University of Utah in 1996. He learned that due to the arid climate in Utah, the large surface to volume ratio of the lice made them vulnerable to desiccation.

Most research in Clayton’s lab concerns basic aspects of the biology of birds and their feather lice. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Dr. Clayton successfully cultured lice on captive birds, such as common pigeons, for basic research purposes. However, when he moved his lab to the University of Utah in 1996, from Oxford University in England, he encountered great difficulty keeping lice alive on captive birds. Perplexed, he consulted colleagues working on other small insects, such as fruit flies. He was informed that, because of Utah’s arid climate, they too had difficulty keeping insect cultures alive. The large surface to volume ratio of these small insects apparently makes them vulnerable to desiccation in such an arid climate. One solution was to install steam lines in insect culture rooms to increase the ambient humidity. Upon installing such lines in his bird rooms, Clayton found that the problem was resolved and feather lice were relatively easy to culture.

Around this time, Dr. Clayton’s elementary school children contracted head lice that appeared to be resistant to chemical shampoos. Clayton’s experience with pigeon lice suggested it might be possible to control head lice by reducing the level of humidity near the scalp. Over the next several years a variety of methods were tested in Clayton’s lab, ranging from the use of chemical desiccants, to heat caps fitted with electrodes, to rice bag caps heated in a microwave, to various hair dryers and blowers up to the size of a leaf blower (don’t try this at home).

The tests showed it is not feasible to control head lice using existing hair dryers. Although bonnet-style hair dryers heat the hair and scalp, static heated air does not kill lice (unless it is much hotter than a person can tolerate). A combination of heat and considerable airflow is required to desiccate the lice. Conventional blow driers do not work well either. They tend to mat the hair, which can protect the lice from the moving, hot air. Hair dryers are also dangerously hot and can cause burns when directing hot air for long periods of time in one area as is needed to treat head lice.

After months of tinkering, it looked like it might be possible to kill head lice and their eggs with a custom-built device that combined fast-moving heated air, a precise angle of application, and the right duration of treatment. The culmination of this work was the publication in 2006 of a paper in the journal Pediatrics reporting data on the relative success of the different kinds of hair dryers, compared to the LouseBuster device, for killing head lice and their eggs.

Lice Clinics of America, Inc., which incorporated in 2006, formed to take the LouseBuster product to market. A follow-up study was published in the  Journal of Medical Entomology in 2011 that showed the LouseBuster was highly effective at killing lice and eggs, even in the hands of novices.

THE AIRALLÉ TREATMENT

The AirAllé® device is used by lice professionals on individuals with dry, untangled hair that can be easily combed. During the course of a 30-minute treatment, the trained AirAllé technician gently places the device’s applicator tip under the hair and against the head, moving its position every 30 seconds until the entire head has been treated.

The AirAllé device blows heated air through its applicator tip along the scalp and hair shafts at a higher flow (but much cooler temperature) than a hair dryer.The technician will stop the use of the device immediately if an individual being treated gives a verbal or physical sign of discomfort.

Because the purpose of the AirAllé device is to kill the lice and eggs through dehydration (and not to blow them out of the hair), dead lice and dead eggs remain in the hair after treatment. AirAllé technicians do a post-treatment comb-out (which usually takes 30 minutes) with a good quality lice comb to remove the dead lice and eggs. Most technicians then apply a post-treatment rinse using dimethicone oil to kill any remaining hatched lice that may have survived the treatment.

professional lice treatment with airallé®
professional lice treatment with airallé®

THE AIRALLÉ TREATMENT

The AirAllé® device is used by lice professionals on individuals with dry, untangled hair that can be easily combed and is free of hair products and scalp-treatment products.
During the course of a 30-minute treatment, the trained AirAllé technician will gently place the device’s applicator tip under the hair and against the head, moving its position every 30 seconds until the entire head has been treated.

The AirAllé device blows heated air through its applicator tip along the scalp and hair shafts at a higher flow (but much cooler temperature) than a hair dryer.

The AirAllé technician will stop the use of the device immediately if an individual being treated gives a verbal or physical sign of discomfort.

Because the purpose of the AirAllé device is to kill the lice and eggs through dehydration (and not to blow them out of the hair), dead lice and dead eggs will remain in the hair after treatment. AirAllé technicians will do a post-treatment comb-out (which usually takes 30 minutes) with a good quality lice comb to remove the dead lice and eggs. Most technicians will then apply a post-treatment rinse using dimethicone oil to kill any remaining hatched lice that may have survived the treatment.

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