Many parents are enamored by the word “natural” when it is applied to products for themselves and their children. One area where this claim is often made is in the world of head lice treatment. There are bloggers that recommend using products like lavender and tea tree oil.
The ingredients used by lice treatment products are an issue of increasing concern as most over-the-counter (OTC) lice products use insecticides that are a) increasingly ineffective as head lice have become resistant to them and b) have been linked to behavioral and developmental health problems in children.
Dr. Murray S. Katz, a physician and founder of the Tiny Tots Medical Centre in Montreal, Canada, warns parents that “natural” doesn’t always mean good. “Most parents would not want to put an ‘insecticide’ on the head of their children,” Katz wrote in an opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette. Yet, lice are insects, and the so-called ‘natural products’ such as tea tree oil don’t work nearly as well as safe and more effective alternatives.”
Of tea tree oil in particular, Dr. Katz has this to say: “Tea trees (melaleucas) are native to Australia. Anyone can make tea tree oil, put it in a bottle, pay to advertise on the internet, and sell the oil.”
The lack of scientific studies of natural products and the lack of regulation of their ingredients are cause for concern. “Scientific information, such as that of the Canadian Paediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children, Kidshealth.org, various journals of toxicology, and reports from poison control centres, is generally more difficult to find,” Katz said. In addition, “There are no controls as to the concentration. Some preparations have almost no tea tree oil in them and others are strong enough to burn the scalp or make the eyes tear due to the vapours.”
Dr. Katz also points to some research that has found possible health threats posed by natural oils. The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a National Institutes of Health study that “suggests that repeated topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause prepubertal gynecomastia, a rare condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in boys prior to puberty, for which a cause is seldom identified.”
It appears that when it comes to head lice, natural and chemical treatments alike may be worse than the condition they aim to treat. Lice are more of a nuisance than a health threat. They don’t cause any disease, and their primary impact is itchiness and discomfort.
Fortunately, there are newer lice treatment products on the market that have been clinically proven to be fast, safe, and effective. , the largest network of urgent care lice treatment centers in the world, offers treatment using the revolutionary AirAllé medical device. The FDA-cleared device has been proven in clinical trials to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs. Most treatments take about an hour and are guaranteed to be effective.
Even better, AirAllé uses no chemicals—it uses carefully controlled warm air to dehydrate and kill lice and eggs at the same time. For more information or to find a clinic, visit www.liceclinicsofamerica.com