head lice

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$500K Settlement For Claims That Shampoo Would Prevent Head Lice

(majcher via Compfight)

(majcher via Compfight)

Once you’ve been through the head-lice mill, you know many of the signs: A child whose beautiful locks are suddenly shorn into a Draconian buzz cut? Might be to ease the nit-combing. A powerful odor of rosemary in a cloud around a child’s head? Could be a parent who buys into the ancient lore that lice run away from the pungent herb. Some of the remedies work, of course, and some seem more like snake oil — or herbal oil — for desperate parents. (And don’t get me started on the “lice-killing shampoos.” I know some have been shown to work in studies — but I’ve also seen live bugs in the wake of properly administered shampoo, with, I’m sorry to say, my own eyes.)

All of which is a long preamble to the gratifying news that there’s been at least a small crackdown on some unproven lice-prevention claims. This from the Associated Press via The New York Times:

NEW YORK — The Federal Trade Commission says the maker of Lice Shield shampoos and sprays has settled charges that its ads misled consumers.

The FTC says cosmetics company Lornamead has agreed to pay $500,000 and stop saying in ads and on packaging that its products can prevent head lice. The agency says Lornamead doesn’t have enough proof that its shampoos, sticks and sprays can prevent kids from getting head lice.

Lornamead, which also makes Aqua Net hairspray, did not respond to a request for comment.

The FTC says Lice Shield is sold in CVS, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid and other stores.

The full FTC announcement is here.

Note to the commission: This is surely a very fertile field. I’d be thrilled for you to use my tax dollars to explore it further. Parents, any other particular products you’d like to question?

Head Lice News: Ordinary Conditioner — Yes; Selfie Spread — No

Combing out lice and nits with a special comb

Combing out lice and nits with a special comb

We parents are easy marks when we’re in the midst of a panicked battle against a family head-lice infestation. Whether it’s herbal “repellents” heavy on rosemary or chemical blasts of insecticidal shampoo, it’s hard to say no to any potential weapon when the foe is so tiny, so persistent and so high on the “yuck” scale.

So here’s a bit of helpful and potentially money-saving news from the Entomological Society of America. Their headline: Ordinary conditioner removes head lice eggs as effectively as special products. From their press release:

Eggs from head lice, also called nits, are incredibly difficult to remove. Female lice lay eggs directly onto strands of hair, and they cement them in place with a glue-like substance, making them hard to get rid of. In fact, the eggs are glued down so strongly that they will stay in place even after hair has been treated with pediculicides — substances used to kill lice. Some shampoos and conditioners that contain chemicals or special oils are marketed as nit-removal products. However, new research just published in the Journal of Medical Entomology shows that ordinary hair conditioner is just as effective.

The paper, titled “Efficacy of Products to Remove Eggs of Pediculus humanus capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae) From the Human Hair,” is here. A bit more: “They found that nits on the hairs that were left completely untreated were the most difficult to remove. Eggs on hairs that had been soaked in deionized water were much easier to remove, as were the eggs on hairs that had been treated with ordinary hair conditioner and with products specifically marketed for the purpose of nit removal. However, they found no significant differences between the ordinary conditioners and the special nit-removal products.”

And while we’re on the topic, I see a local head-lice expert, Richard Pollack, quoted in an NBC News item with the irresistible headline: “Selfies (Probably) Not Spreading Lice Among Teens, Expert Says.” Continue reading

The Ultimate Head Lice Codex: Expert Opinions On Ethics And Etiquette

How fitting! How timely! This little bulletin is just in from #10 Downing Street, courtesy of politics.co.uk:

David Cameron has enough to scratch his head over without head lice, but the prime minister is facing a nit outbreak in Downing Street.
The prime minister told journalists visiting No 10 his children Nancy, seven, and Arthur, four, had returned from school with head lice.
He warned journalists that they might find their heads scratching as a result of their brush with power.
“If you find them when you get home I apologise,” Mr Cameron told the visiting hacks.
“Let me know and I’ll send you a comb and some ointment.”

And now, as promised, I’ve rolled together this week’s whole series into one overarching post, suitable for sending to friends who may need it, even if they don’t say so…And please tune in this afternoon to WBUR’s Radio Boston to hear our experts on the air.

Nit-picking

I was a head lice virgin. Every once in a while, our elementary school would send home a flyer about a case of lice, and I would casually glance over my children’s silky blond heads, imagining an insect the size of a mosquito. No, nothing.

Then, just after winter vacation, I noticed that my daughter seemed to be scratching above and behind her ears a lot. For all my ignorance, I knew that was a telltale sign. I asked Leeza, our omniscient former nanny, to inspect. In a previous life, she was the deputy director of a summer camp in Ukraine, where she became all too well acquainted with lice — and where they were treated the nasty old-fashioned way, with kerosene (don’t try that at home) and head-shaving. And yes, this was another case.

My heart dropped. My mind spun. I ran to the drugstore, ransacked Google and obsessively begged advice from friends and virtual strangers. Turns out lice infestations are a bit like miscarriages — when you speak up, almost everyone has a story. And here’s the good news: If you have to catch head lice, Boston is a prime place to do it, because we’re extraordinarily rich in expertise. We have the National Pediculosis Association, a 28-year-old non-profit that aims to educate and prevent. We have Richard J. Pollack, PhD, an entomologist and louse expert affiliated with Harvard and Boston Universities who has researched and taught about such pests for decades. We have the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization, led by president Mimi Stamer, PNP. And we have “The Nit-Picker, Inc.,” a Needham-based lice and nit removal service that is ten years old, makes house calls and has helped more than 5,000 clients. (Including my children. Best birthday present I ever got.)

I climbed a steep learning curve on head lice, from their life cycles to the gamut of remedies, and am thrilled to report that my children now appear to be lice-free — at least, for now. And I’ve calmed down quite a bit, accepting head lice as a problem that must be painstakingly dealt with — one friend calls it “The Olympics of Motherhood” — but not a threat.

Still, I’m left with questions that are never addressed in the shampoo instructions or the doctor’s office. When it comes to head lice, how are we supposed to behave with each other? Many parents seem to observe a sort of lice omerta. Biblical feuds flare in families over lice. Friendships break up. Communities fracture into factions. What did you know and when did you know it? Perhaps we could all use a head lice code of conduct. Here’s an initial attempt, and readers, I implore you to contribute your feedback and ask your own questions. Continue reading

Final Head Lice Questions: What If A Kid ‘Flunks’ Inspection, And More

This is our third and final set of questions on head lice behavior (that is, human behavior when dealing with head lice, not the behavior of the bugs themselves.) The first set is here, and includes an introduction of our experts. The second set is here, and we wrap it all up in an overarching post here.

9. Children talk among themselves, and my child tells me that a classmate “still has lice.” What do I do?

Mimi Stamer, MSNO:
If you have a relationship with that other child’s parent, you may speak to him/her about what your child has shared and offer to help or advise. You may also share the concern with the school nurse and she will follow up appropriately. Lots of children hear, see, or say things about lice that are not accurate so you don’t want to panic due to what your child says. You may stress to your child the importance of their personal lice prevention behavior- no sharing of head accessories, hats, head-head contact, keeping hair pulled up and back, etc.

Richard Pollack, PhD, IdentifyUS, LLC:
Smile and embrace the opportunity to educate yourself and your child about the fascinating biology but insignificant health concerns associated with head lice.  Similarly, exploit this chance to discuss the acceptance of others and of compassion.

Helen Hadley, The Nit-Picker, Inc.
I have heard of parents calling the school nurse anonymously and letting them know about a known case of head lice in the school. The nurse will take it from there in whatever consider appropriate.

(The following questions come from a friend in a shi-shi New York suburb:)

10. My daughter has lice and feels like she’s being shunned at school. We’ve talked, and she knows that’s not right, but she’s feeling bruised. I want to hug her and snuggle with her in her bed….but I don’t want lice. What should I do? Continue reading

Head Lice Questions, Part Two: Fear Of Reinfestation, And More

Please click here for our first head lice post, introducing our experts and asking the initial four questions. We posted a few questions a day, then wrapped it all up with an overarching post here and a segment on Radio Boston. Reader input very welcome!! Do you agree with the answers? Do you have other questions?
Meanwhile, just to show that I’m not alone in my pedicular obsession, The Los Angeles Times posted a piece about head lice and the eternally fraught question of school no-nit policies here just yesterday.

5. When I tell other parents that my child has lice, I learn for the first time that several of their children have had them lately, too. Shouldn’t the parents have told me?

Mimi Stamer, Massachusetts School Nurse Organization:
Yes, the other parents should have told you, but unfortunately many people continue to keep it a secret or private. You should calmly express that you appreciate learning now and share why it is important for children’s parents to be informed so they may begin checking, treating, and prevent continued spreading.

Deborah Altschuler, National Pediculosis Association:
Communities that speak openly about head lice are in a much better position to avoid embarrassment and overcome stigmas.  Not surprisingly children are often much better at understanding this issue than parents. The silver lining of an outbreak is that it puts the issue in the forefront.  We can learn a lot about our community preparedness for communicable diseases in general by the way we respond to head lice.  Parents need to work together and respectfully communicate on this and other public health issues whenever possible.

Richard Pollack, PhD, IdentifyUS, LLC:
There’s no ‘right’ answer to this loaded question.  For those who have exaggerated the significance of head lice to a major disease status, then you’d likely want every child who has ever been within a mile of an infested person to carry a scarlet louse emblem.  For those who consider head lice to be the most minor of childhood maladies, then the only thing to carry would be a smile, a feeling of camaraderie and some compassion.

Helen Hadley, The Nit-Picker, Inc:
In a perfect world, yes, absolutely they should have told you, provided they had had contact with you in recent weeks. By telling you that their family had lice, you were being granted the opportunity of making your own determination about having physical contact with them—it should certainly not be their decision to make for you.

6.  After the expenditure of a great deal of time and/or money, my child seems to be lice-free, but now I’m paranoid about re-infestation. If another child wants to play with my child, may I ask the child’s parents if they’re absolutely sure the child is lice-free?

Continue reading

Head Lice Etiquette: All The Questions You’re Afraid To Ask — Part 1

Nit-picking

I was a head lice virgin. Every once in a while, our elementary school would send home a flyer about a case of lice, and I would casually glance over my children’s silky blond heads, imagining an insect the size of a mosquito. No, nothing.

Then, just after winter vacation, I noticed that my daughter seemed to be scratching above and behind her ears a lot. For all my ignorance, I knew that was a telltale sign. I asked Leeza, our omniscient former nanny, to inspect. In a previous life, she was the deputy director of a summer camp in Ukraine, where she became all too well acquainted with lice — and where they were treated the nasty old-fashioned way, with kerosene (don’t try that at home) and head-shaving. And yes, this was another case.

My heart dropped. My mind spun. I ran to the drugstore, ransacked Google and obsessively begged advice from friends and virtual strangers. Turns out lice infestations are a bit like miscarriages — when you speak up, almost everyone has a story. And here’s the good news: If you have to catch head lice, Boston is a prime place to do it, because we’re extraordinarily rich in expertise. We have the National Pediculosis Association, a 28-year-old non-profit that aims to educate and prevent. We have Richard J. Pollack, PhD, an entomologist and louse expert affiliated with Harvard and Boston Universities who has researched and taught about such pests for decades. We have the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization, led by president Mimi Stamer, PNP. And we have “The Nit-Picker, Inc.,” a Needham-based lice and nit removal service that is ten years old, makes house calls and has helped more than 5,000 clients. (Including my children. Best birthday present I ever got.)

I climbed a steep learning curve on head lice, from their life cycles to the gamut of remedies, and am thrilled to report that my children now appear to be lice-free — at least, for now. And I’ve calmed down quite a bit, accepting head lice as a problem that must be painstakingly dealt with — one friend calls it “The Olympics of Motherhood” — but not a threat.

Next week, I’ll get into the controversial lice-information landscape and the latest news on remedies. But first, I wanted to ask our experts the questions that are never addressed in the shampoo instructions or the doctor’s office. When it comes to head lice, how are we supposed to behave with each other? Many parents seem to observe a sort of lice omerta. Biblical feuds flare in families over lice. Friendships break up. Communities fracture into factions. What did you know and when did you know it? Perhaps we could all use a head lice code of conduct. Here’s an initial attempt, and readers, I implore you to contribute your feedback and ask your own questions. We’ll be running three or four questions a day all week, and then will put it all together in one overarching post, which also discussed on Radio Boston.

Combing out lice and nits with a special comb

(Full disclosures: I should note that Richard Pollack and the National Pediculosis Association are longtime adversaries. On the head-lice spectrum, Richard is on the end that sees lice as a natural part of human life for millennia, and the shampoos available as generally good solutions. The NPA, led by Deborah Altschuler, sees head lice as a significant public health problem and is deeply concerned about the pesticides in the shampoos; it advocates a no-nit policy. Richard operates a business, IdentifyUS LLC, that offers guidance and insect identification services. He consults to shampoo makers but has no financial interest in their products. The NPA, a volunteer nonprofit, sells specially developed nit combs. And of course, Helen Hadley owns The Nit-Picker, Inc., a private lice and nit removal service, and Mimi Stamer represents the MSNO school nurse constituency.)

1. I find out that my child has lice. I’m panicked and embarrassed. Do I have to tell anyone? Continue reading