Lice treatment: It’s all about the eggs

They go online and search for solutions, often finding multiple sources of conflicting advice. Get the over-the-counter chemicals. Try natural oils. Cover your child’s head in mayonnaise or petroleum jelly—these are a few of the most common recommendations.

All of these solutions share an important shortcoming: they are focused on killing live head lice. Killing live lice is, of course, a good thing. But this approach ignores the most critical part of ridding a household of lice: destroying the eggs (also called nits).

Eggs, or nits, are really the problem when it comes to head lice. They are not the focus of most lice treatments, which are designed to eradicate live lice. Frankly, it is much easier to remove live lice than it is to remove the nits. It is not uncommon for nits to turn a simple case of head lice into a near chronic condition.

Here’s how. Live lice can lay around 5 eggs per day, or about a hundred eggs in their 30-day life span. Lice attach eggs to hair shafts with a glue-like fixative that makes them difficult to remove without a skilled person using a louse comb. It takes around 7-10 days for nits to hatch into live lice. Lice eggs cannot be suffocated and they cannot be penetrated by over-the-counter pesticides. If you read the fine print of commercial lice products, they all require the eggs to be combed out over a few weeks. Failure to successfully comb out all eggs will result in live lice returning, starting the whole process over again.

Parents who have been through lice outbreaks are all too familiar with this discouraging cycle. Their child comes home from school or day care or summer camp with a case of head lice. They rush to the drugstore and buy a lice-treatment product, apply it to their children (and usually to themselves as well, as head lice tend to spread quickly through families), comb out dead lice and nits day after day, only to see live lice return because they missed a few. It can be extremely frustrating.

So get this straight: commercial lice pesticides don’t kill eggs. They just don’t. To be fair, they don’t claim to. The instructions tell you that you must comb out the nits after applying the topical treatment. But you can be forgiven if you don’t get that message from the packaging or from the other head-lice advice you’ll find online.

If you are looking for an FDA-cleared treatment that is guaranteed to kill both live head lice and their eggs in a single treatment, look for the AirAllé medical device, available exclusively at Lice Clinics of America facilities throughout the United States and around the world.

The product was born out of research on lice species on animals at the University of Utah. Ironically, the AirAllé treatment was discovered by researchers attempting to keep lice alive in order to study their behavior. Researchers found it very difficult to keep lice alive in the warm, dry Utah climate. This lead to the eventual development of the AirAllé device, which uses carefully controlled warm, dry air to kill lice and nits in a single treatment.

Head lice inflict undo stress and inconvenience to millions of people each year in the U.S. alone—often compounded by the misinformation and unscientific remedies promoted on- and offline. Lice Clinics of America is committed to offering sound medical, research-based information on this issue to help families make the best choices for their children; as well to enable doctors, nurses, teachers and day-care providers to have the information they need to help families deal with a condition that doesn’t need to be any more difficult than it already is.

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