Friday, February 10, 2012
New Treatment Approved for Head Lice
Nothing makes your head itch like hearing someone has head lice! Immediately, we all cringe and reach up for a quick scratch. Who gets lice? Primarily grade school aged girls (5-11 years old). Girls that age live with their heads tightly paired up with their best friends, sharing hairbrushes, pillows, headbands and hats. Certainly boys get lice, too, and people of all ages are susceptible. In the United States alone, we have between 6-12 million cases per year!
Lice come in two flavors- head lice and pubic lice- and they do not jump from one body part to another. Head lice stick to scalps, and pubic lice attach to the coarse pubic hair, or possibly coarse underarm, mustache, or eyebrow hairs. Lice are obligate parasites, requiring humans for their life cycle. The adults are 1-3mm long (so they are visible to the naked eye.) Most often, lice are recognized by seeing nits, which are the eggs that attach to hair near the base of the shaft. They look like tiny clear or white ovals stuck on the hair, and they will not be easily detached (as opposed to flakes of dandruff, which you can flick off easily.)
Lice can be treated with a couple different over-the-counter products- Rid and Nix. These products kill the adult lice, but not the eggs, so typically treatment is repeated one week after the initial treatment. There are also special combs that help to physically remove the nits from the hair. The FDA has recently approved another lotion called Sklice, with that active ingredient being ivermectin. (You might recognize this medication from your pet, as ivermectin is used to prevent heartworm.) The apparent advantage is that only one ten minute application resolves most lice infestations without the need to remove the nits.
Is Sklice better than the products we already have? Maybe, but we don't have any head-to-head comparison studies yet (pardon the pun.) Certainly, if it reduces or eliminates the need to "nit-pick", this will represent a very significant advantage over our existing treatments.
BOTTOM LINE: If you or your child get head lice, talk to your doctor about the treatment options, including the newly approved Sklice. (Note that Sklice will not be available in pharmacies for another couple of months.)