Tips for choosing a lice treatment

Back-to-School brings an increase in head lice cases

Traditionally pesticide-based products have been the most common lice treatments available. These products contain the active ingredients Permethrin or Pyrethrum, which are pesticides introduced more than four decades ago as pediculicides –OTC drugs to kill lice. With these products, the formula kills lice but does little to kill their eggs, making a second application required 7 to 10 days later to kill newly hatched lice that were in the egg stage when the first treatment was performed.

A big concern today is pesticide-resistance. Researchers studying head lice across the U.S. have documented that strains of “super lice” exist in much of the country. As a result of having relied on the same chemicals to treat lice over decades, resistance has grown, leading to less consistent reliability of these pesticide-containing products.

Pesticide-Free Lice Treatments

This category of products is aimed at addressing the pesticide-resistance challenge and providing a different approach to ending an infestation. Within the pesticide-free category, there are two main types of products: pediculicides and combing facilitators.

  • Pesticide-Free Pediculicides

This newer generation of treatments emphasizes safe ingredients and the ability to kill lice, including super lice without using the pesticides to which lice have become resistant. Often these products include a Drug Facts box indicating that the FDA recognizes the active ingredient as a pediculicide – an OTC drug for the treatment of lice.

Vamousse Lice Treatment is an example of a pesticide-free pediculicide. Vamousse is also proven to kill eggs, dehydrating them with the treatment. This means that both the adult lice and their laid eggs are killed with the application rather than needing to wait for eggs to hatch. Parents also get the benefit of ingredients that are non-toxic and safe to reapply as needed, so there is no waiting period to fully end an infestation or quickly treat a re-infestation.

  • Combing Facilitators

Combing has long been the most basic and effective method of ending a lice infestation (evidence dates back even to the time of Cleopatra!). Some products in the lice treatment section serve to condition the hair for easier combing, supporting the manual removal of lice. These products can be recognized by language about “loosening the nit glue” or “eliminating lice and eggs.” For many parents, combing alone is a time-intensive, highly involved activity that may need to be repeated frequently to get complete removal, so they should be aware that these combing aids do not kill lice.

What Parents Should Know

The best way to identify a head lice infestation early is by doing regular head checks. If you find lice, check the rest of the family and alert playmates. With the range of treatments on the market, be sure to follow the directions carefully for the product you select as procedures vary based on the type of product.