Getting rid of lice

When Dawn Mucci’s son was just four years old, he came home from daycare with lice and promptly passed it on to her. “I struggled with lice as a child and felt the stigma from other children, and right away I was brought back to that place.” She soon found that there was a lot of misinformation about how to treat lice so she started her own pesticide-free lice and nit (lice egg) removal service, Lice Squad Canada, in her hometown of Toronto.

Fast forward 15 years, and Dawn is at the helm of 18 franchises in Canada (and always looking for new recruits). From this we can surmise that a) Dawn is a savvy business person and b) lots of people get lice. “The first thing I tell parents is not to panic,” says Dawn. There’s no need to strip down all the bedding in the house and launder everything in sight. “We tell developing parents to vacuum areas where their child’s head has come in contact, or put those items in the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on high heat. Most lice will die after 24 to 48 hours without a blood feed.”

Getting rid of lice

Choose a pesticide-free method of smothering the nits and lice at the drugstore or at (You can also coat hair liberally with olive oil or coconut oil, cover head with a shower cap and wait three to eight hours.) Then the fun begins. “No matter what smothering agent you use, the real job is removing the lice eggs,” says Dawn. Any parent whose child has had lice will tell you this process will test your eyesight and patience, and your child’s tolerance for sitting still and having their hair combed. 
There are several lice removal combs on the market, but Dawn recommends a long-tined comb like The Louse Trap, Nit Free or the Licemeister. Combs that have a spiral cut along each tine are very effective. Comb small sections of hair and wipe off both sides on a clean, light-coloured towel after each seven to 10 passes on the same section of hair. Lice tend to congregate nearer to the scalp and the eggs are small, brown or caramel-colour when viable. They are stuck to one side of the hair shaft and do not blow or flick off. Lice eggs hatch in seven to 10 days so continue checking hair for a two-week period until no more lice or nits are found. Remember, your child may be coming into contact again and again with the same lice source at school or daycare, so keep an eye on hair for at least two weeks.

New treatment

Ten years ago Dr. Dale Clayton, a biology professor at the University of Utah, discovered that lice and nits die when exposed to the right amount of airflow at the right temperature for the right length of time. His research has finally come to fruition and the LouseBuster is now available in Canada through licensed providers and the Lice Squad. It is classified as a medical device and requires training and certification to use. Early reports are promising. “Ideally school boards, camps or clinics would buy them and have trained operators available to deal with their internal lice issues,” says Dawn.

THE LOUSEBUSTER has been found to have a 99.2% kill rate on lice eggs and also requires less follow-up care. It works much like a hair dryer but with a lower heat and a higher flow rate. Treatment consists of using the device for 30 minutes, followed by a 30-minute comb-out to remove dead lice and their eggs. Timing depends on the length and thickness of the hair. (Not approved for use on children under four, people with any sort of facial implants or who have had radiation treatments.)

Published in August 2010.

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