Head lice – the latest facts

NEARLY 50% think head lice can be dangerous if left untreated, rather than just a social problem, new research has found.

Parents are often having to face head lice on younger children in the 21st century, because of increased social interaction at nursery. The research has been carried out by the Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), which also found nearly 30% of people thought regularly using chemical treatments would make sure children don’t catch lice.

The fear is that unnecessarily using these treatments could mean lice become immune. The issue of lice seems to be particularly confusing. The survey also found:

  • 70% of people think headlice jump from one head to another (they actually crawl, so your child’s head would have to touch another head with lice)
  • 20% think you need to get medical help for lice (they can easily be treated with products available from a pharmacy)
  • 90% of people did know that lice don’t only like dirty hair, but one in six retired people thought lice did only like dirty hair, so the message is not getting across to grandparents.

Simon Fradd of the DPP said: “Accepting the fact that head lice are likely to happen to your children or grandchildren is an important first step towards managing the problem effectively.” The Doctor Patient Partnership has produced a leaflet which will soon be in all GP surgeries on the topic. Information in the medical journal the Lancet recently compared different treatments for head lice, including chemical treatment and wet-combing (using a fine-tooth comb on wet hair to remove bugs and eggs).

The research found that an agent called malathion was the most effective, and called for more work to establish guidelines.

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