For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is drawing to an end and that means back to school – and the annual wave of panic about head lice. It seems that cramming hundreds of children together in one building leads to lice outbreaks, panicky teachers, and distraught parents. Right on schedule, in last week’s Globe and Mail under the heading “Medical Rethink” was the article Chemical Lice Treatments May Not Work. The article isn’t available at their website, probably because it’s copied nearly verbatim from the Wall Street Journal, where it’s online with the less provocative title Tired of Nit-Picking? Lice Are Peskier Than Ever.
The article was based on the newly-updated American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report on Head Lice. Well since I blogged about head lice about a year ago, I thought I’d better review the new guidance and see if my interpretation of the evidence needs to be updated. Science-based practice is always tentative, and subject to change if persuasive evidence emerges. So what’s up in the new report?
I’ve covered off the broad treatment strategy for head lice in my previous post. The key point I made is that you don’t need any drugs at all to treat head lice. There are chemical and non-chemical options, and both work – as long as you’re fastidious. Chemicals kill the lice, or you can physically remove them with a comb. Both strategies need to be repeated over several days. Slip up with either approach, and the lice won’t be eliminated. So what’s the new report say about the chemical treatments? Is a new strategy warranted? Continue reading