New Nontoxic Lotion for Treating Lice
A new, nontoxic lotion (Nuvo lotion) applied to wet hair effectively treats head lice, according to a preliminary study in Pediatrics (2004;114:e275–e279). This is good news for parents who have concerns about exposing their child to commonly used lice treatments that are potentially harmful and can adversely affect the nervous system.
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are parasites that most commonly affect children between ages three and ten, with an estimated 6 to 12 million new cases each year in the United States. Lice are transmitted primarily by direct head-to-head contact, but exposure to contaminated clothes, bedding, and hair care products may also lead to lice infestation. Girls are more often affected than boys, as they more often have longer hair and share hair care accessories.
Treatment for lice typically involves extensive cleaning of clothes and bedding, using a special comb to remove lice eggs (nits) from the hair, and applying a topical agent (lindane) to the head to kill the organisms. However, lindane is potentially toxic; it is one of several chemicals in the family of pesticides called organochlorines and is similar to the more well-known pesticide DDT that was banned in the United States more than 30 years ago. While few reports of toxicity have been reported when lindane products were used correctly, misuse and overuse has led to symptoms of nausea, vomiting, coordination problems, dizziness, fatigue, and, in some cases, seizures.
In the study, 133 children and adults (average age of eight years) with head lice participated in one of two treatment groups. In the first treatment group, participants applied the nontoxic lotion to their wet scalp and waited two minutes. The lotion was combed out of the hair using a sterile comb and then a special comb was used to remove nits. After lice egg removal, the hair was blown dry with a hair drier. The nit-removal comb was saved to determine how many were removed during the treatment. This process was completed once a week, up to a maximum of three weeks. The second treatment group followed the same procedure, except participants only used the sterile comb and did not use the special lice egg–removal comb. Clothes were changed daily and all bedding was heated in the drier for ten minutes, but participants were advised not to extensively clean the home. The researchers contacted participants after six months following treatment to determine if reinfestation of lice had occurred.
Both treatments were effective in eradicating the lice. The cure rates in the first and second treatment groups were 97% and 95%, respectively. Although more lice were found on the special lice-removal combs than the regular combs, no significant difference in effectiveness was observed between the two groups. After six months, 94% of the participants in the first group and 95% of those in the second group reported they continued to be lice-free. No adverse effects were associated with using the lotion.
The new treatment lotion works by covering the parasite with a thick film that effectively plugs its breathing holes and suffocates it. All ingredients in the lotion are commonly found in hair conditioners and are “generally recognized as safe” by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The current study suggests the new treatment can eliminate the need for extensive house and bedding cleaning, the special comb, and potentially toxic chemicals, such as lindane. Unfortunately, Nuvo is not yet FDA approved and is not commercially available. The physician who formulated the lotion hopes to make it available to the public soon. For more information on availability, please visit www.nuvoforheadlice.com.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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