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Children's Health

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Lice Resistant to Common Treatments


Physicians may be asked to treat patients who have had no success with over-the-counter products, but few prescription products are available today, and all are controversial. Many physicians, when faced with this problem, simply give their patients literature from the lice treatment manufacturers. If they do write a prescription, it may be for Lindane, which used to be available without a prescription under the name Kwell. But Lindane has been linked to serious nerve damage and deaths and is not recommended by most experts.

The development of new, safe, and effective lice treatments has been hampered by a lack of funding for research facilities where lice can be raised and thoroughly studied, says Clark.

"We have never really given enough thought to a resistance management strategy," says Clark. "What we do is market one thing at a time and use it until it becomes useless. What I find very unacceptable is that everyone knows [resistance] is out there and nobody is doing anything about it."

"We still have the old tried-and-true method, which was tried in me in 1940, and that is to cut all the hair off," says Butler. "And hand-combing. That has been used forever. Even the Pharaohs were buried with combs, and they found nits on the combs."

The study was funded by the National Pediculosis Foundation.

Vital Information:

  • Researchers have shown that lice in this country have become resistant to permethrin, the active ingredient found in the most popular lice treatment products.
  • One pharmacist recommends that the best way to treat lice is with a comb and fingernails.
  • Prescription products are available, but their use is controversial because of negative side effects.
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