Lice is the dirty, humiliating secret no-one wants to talk about. Yet many of us have experienced the frustration and anxiety of a lice outbreak in our homes and struggled in silence to overcome it. Truth is, a lice outbreak has nothing to do with dirty hair or parental neglect. Head lice are the most prevalent parasitic infestation in North America, affecting 2.4 million Canadians each year. The most frequent targets? Children between the ages of three and 12.
Trouble is, lice and nits are hard to detect and because the truth is so uncomfortable to digest, denial is a frequent companion. Trust me – I’ve been there. My son complained of an itching head for two weeks, wondering out loud if he had lice. I took a quick look at his scalp, saw nothing and suggested we try a mild dandruff shampoo. By the time a friend pointed out that lice were scrambling about his head, they had infected five other members of the family, too.
The knee-jerk reaction is to drive straight to a pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter solution. After all, that’s what we do when we’re sick, right? And most of the time, the medicine has an effect. The neurotoxic lice killers available at pharmacies contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids. They’re temptingly easy to obtain and even come with a plastic comb. Trouble is, the combs are useless and because head lice have become resistant to the toxins in those lice killing shampoos, they often don’t work.
A 2010 study by dermatologists at the University of Montreal found a 97% rate of resistance to those treatments in Canadian populations infested with head lice. “As frustration with failed head lice treatments increases, so does the frequency of re-treatments,” the study reported. “Cases of overdosage and lack of efficacy will increase as resistance to the pyrethrin- or pyrethroid-based pediculicides becomes more prevalent.”
We were in precisely this situation a week after using our over-the-counter solution. Our scalps were itchier than ever, we were too shamed to confide in anyone and we were starting to wonder how we’d win this battle. I sat down at the computer, desperate for a solution. When I Googled the word “lice,” I found Lice Squad Canada Inc., and New Westminster-based consultant Coreen Derome. Within a few hours of calling, her car pulled up at the curb and I heaved an audible sigh of relief.
After she unpacked her tools, she took a look at the product we’d been using and voiced concern. “It’s the over-use and abuse of these products that worries us,” she said. “When the product doesn’t work, parents will use it more times than is recommended or leave it in on the hair longer than it should be there. That poses a risk to children, and our mission is to stop the over-use and abuse of pesticides on children. We wash pesticides off our food and don’t put it on our lawns. Naturally, people are reluctant to put it on their hair.”
Lice Squad Canada Inc. uses a pesticide alternative, an enzyme-based product called Nit Pickers Secret that contains a proprietary blend of four naturally occurring enzymes and coconut oil from organic plant materials. The product breaks down the exoskeleton of the lice as well as the glue that holds the eggs to the hair, compromising the lice long enough that they can physically be removed.
The company also uses a medical device called The Louse Buster, which uses controlled, heated air to dehydrate and kill lice and their eggs. Coupled with hair combing using the Louse Trap Comb, the company offers a satisfaction guarantee that after a consultation with treatment, head lice will be decimated – provided clients do their follow-up and environmental care homework.
Within a few hours of combing our hair was lice- and nit-free and the bugs that had been reproducing and crawling gleefully around our scalps lay dead and dying in the trash bin. Our homework included a dose of lotion to the hair and a self-combing session five days later, just to ensure that the problem was truly solved. But the itchiness had stopped, our anxiety had abated and when we followed up with more combing days later, the lice were gone.
It was a learning experience I’d not care to repeat, that’s for sure. But given the lice stats, there’s a good chance it will happen again. If and when it does, I’m glad that now, at least, I know who to call for help!
Article By: Lauren Kramer