How scientists found a foolproof lice treatment that takes minutes

The story is the stuff of the American dream.

A coincidental event leads to a “eureka” moment. A new product is born. An industry is upended. People embrace a new solution that vastly improves their quality of life.

Only this time it has to do with head lice.

Yes, the problem that afflicts 12 million people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but that no one wants to talk about.

Here’s the story.

Researchers at the University of Utah were studying a type of bird lice, and found that it was difficult to keep the lice alive in the arid desert climate. The lice died of dehydration. At the same time, one of the researcher’s children came home with head lice, and the lice couldn’t be removed with over-the-counter lice treatments because lice have become resistant to the chemicals that the treatments use.

The same person was dealing with lice that he couldn’t keep alive on one hand, and on the other had faced lice that he couldn’t kill.

If he could re-create the conditions that dehydrate lice on human scalps, he might have an entirely new type of lice treatment. A decade or so later, the AirAllé device was born. It took years of tinkering and trials and errors, but what finally emerged is a device that has been clinically proven to kill live lice and 99.2 percent of eggs using micro-processer controlled heated air to dehydrate the lice and eggs in a matter of minutes. The device received FDA clearance and was commercialized in 2006.

Early on, the researchers tested a number of household appliances such as hair dryers and hair bonnets that produce hot air. They found hair dryers were too hot, matted the hair and didn’t reach the scalp. A combination of the right temperature, the right flow, and access to the scalp and hair follicles near the scalp proved to be a challenging, but ultimately achievable, solution.

AirAllé Lice Treatment

The AirAllé device includes a micro-processer that controls air temperature and flow, and an applicator that directs the air to the right part of the head and scalp.

Traditional head lice treatments can take weeks or months to successfully implement. Pesticide-based over-the-counter lice shampoos are increasingly ineffective. Home remedies are speculative at best, and picking out nits leaves families vulnerable to human error.

The AirAllé device, now available through Lice Clinics of America treatment centers — there are currently more than 130 in the United States and growing fast — takes about 90 minutes, and customers are guaranteed to be lice-free. No more weeks of painstaking combing and nitpicking; no more harsh chemicals need be applied.

U.S. families spend $450 million on treating lice each year. Much of that money is spent on ineffective head lice products. Now they can know that the money they spend will be on a guaranteed solution that rids them of head lice in a single treatment.

Lice Clinics of America centers are quickly spreading throughout the world. The AirAllé treatment is emerging as a new standard of care for head lice. All because lice that couldn’t be kept alive, met lice that couldn’t be killed.

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