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Head lice prevention: What works, what doesn't?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/head-lice-prevention/AN02174
- With Mayo Clinic internist
James M. Steckelberg, M.D.read biographyclose window
James M. Steckelberg, M.D.James Steckelberg, M.D.
Dr. James Steckelberg is a consultant in the Division of Infectious Diseases and a professor of medicine at Mayo Medical School.
A native of Fremont, Neb., Dr. Steckelberg was a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine as a resident in internal medicine and a fellow in infectious diseases, and is board certified in both. He is the former director of the Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Steckelberg belongs to numerous professional organizations. He is a founding member of the Musculoskeletal Infection Society and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He has served on many Mayo Clinic committees and is a member of the Department of Medicine Leadership Committee and of the executive committee of the Division of Infectious Diseases. He also served on the editorial boards of "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" and "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy" and has been an editorial reviewer for more than a dozen publications.
Dr. Steckelberg's research interests include experimental models of infection, epidemiology of infection, and antimicrobial resistance and therapy of bacterial infections.
Head lice prevention: What works, what doesn't?
A child at my daughter's school has lice. Can head lice prevention products prevent my daughter from getting lice?
from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.
Some over-the-counter products claim to repel lice, but more scientific research is needed to prove their safety and effectiveness.
A number of small studies have shown that ingredients in some of these products — mostly plant oils such as rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon grass — may work to repel lice. However, these products are classified as "natural" so they aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and their safety and effectiveness haven't been tested to FDA standards.
Because instructions for using these products aren't regulated either, it may not be clear how to use them safely. In fact, some products may:
- Be flammable
- Irritate the lungs if fumes are inhaled
- Be toxic or irritate skin
Head lice prevention products can also be more expensive than typical hair care products, and they need to be used repeatedly to maintain their protective effects. Without a guarantee that the product will work, the cost may outweigh the benefits, especially if you're treating more than one person.
Until more research proves the effectiveness of head lice prevention products, you can take simple measures to minimize your child's risk of getting lice:
- Ask your child to avoid head-to-head contact with classmates during play and other activities.
- Instruct your child not to share personal belongings such as hats, scarves, coats, combs, brushes, hair accessories and headphones.
- Instruct your child to avoid shared spaces where hats and clothing from more than one student are hung on a common hook or kept in a locker.
- Parasites: Head lice. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/prevent.html. Accessed Feb. 6, 2012.
- Mumcuoglu KY, et al. Repellency of citronella for head lice: Double-blind randomized trial of efficacy and safety. Israel Medical Association Journal. 2004;6:756.
- Semmler M, et al. Repellency against head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis). Parasitology Research. 2010;106:729.
- Abdel-Ghaffar F, et al. Comparative in vitro tests on the efficacy and safety of 13 anti-head-lice products. Parasitology Research. 2009;106:423.
- Frankowski BL, et al. Head lice. Pediatrics. 2010;126:392.