In my almost twelve years of motherhood, my kids have had head lice twice. Oh, the agony. The combing, the vacuuming, the laundry, the shampooing, the endless rounds of nitpicking, morning and night. Beanie’s head alone is a nitpicker’s worst nightmare: all those glorious curls sproinging away from the teeth of the comb!
Please, please, never again.
The shampoos don’t work all that well anymore, you know. American lice have developed a resistance to the chemical in over-the-counter lice shampoos. And the more potent prescription stuff? That drug may be more effective, but it’s a potent neurotoxin. I didn’t care how many hours I had to spend battling the infestation the hard way, removing each individual nit with a pair of tweezers; there was no way I was going to swathe my children’s heads with poison.
Well, now it looks like there’s a solution that trumps both poison AND tweezers. My friend Sarah, who witnessed the nightmare of our first infestation and, afterward, still let my kids play dress-up at her house, which is one of the highest marks of friendship, if you ask me, knew I would be interested in this recent development in head-lice treatment.
University of Utah
biologists invented a chemical-free, hairdryer-like device – the
LouseBuster – and conducted a study showing it eradicates head lice
infestations on children by exterminating the eggs or "nits" and
killing enough lice to prevent them from reproducing.
The study – published in the November 2006 issue of the journal Pediatrics –
"shows our invention has considerable promise for curing head lice,"
says Dale Clayton, a University of Utah biology professor who led the
research and co-invented the machine.
"It is particularly effective because it kills louse eggs, which
chemical treatments have never done very well," he says. "It also kills
hatched lice well enough to eliminate entire infestations. It works in
one 30-minute treatment. The chemical treatments require multiple
applications one to two weeks apart."
Thirty minutes! Good grief! That’s less time than I had to spend calling around and warning friends and neighbors when my kids got infested. (Not a fun series of phone calls to make, let me tell you. Ugh, this whole post is giving me itchy flashbacks.)
Of course, it’ll be a while before this magic machine hits your local pediatrician’s office:
Patents are pending on the LouseBuster technology, which Clayton hopes
will be on the market within two years for use in schools and
So don’t go swapping hats just yet.
The end of the article cracked me up:
Some of the scientists’ relatives got infested during the study.
Clayton’s kids, Mimi and Roger, volunteered to be infested with lice
and then were treated successfully.
"They like to shock their friends by telling them they served as
guinea pigs in their dad’s research," Clayton says. "I’m waiting for
the authorities to show up. They haven’t yet."
Another researcher had a relative participate involuntarily. In the
study’s acknowledgements, Atkin says he "wishes to apologize to his
wife (again) for accidentally giving her head lice.
I don’t know what’s funnier: the dad infesting his kids ON PURPOSE (what an expression of faith in one’s father—Sure, Dad, release a horde of bugs on my noggin!) or the other guy infesting his wife by accident. "Um, honey, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is, if my invention works, it’s going to make us a fortune. The bad news is, you’ll have to be next in line to use it, because, um, that little itch? It could be telling you something…"