The National Pediculosis Association (NPA) receives phone calls everyday from parents just like yourself as well as other health professionals reporting product treatment failure..many reports of families using various products on the market and finding them not to have worked…only to find the lice still living and crawling about on their children’s heads.

Quite often, parents become frustrated and will reuse those same products that did not work the first time in the hopes that maybe they will work better the second time around. Worse, they might even resort to dangerous alternatives.

Until the treatment failure crisis is fully addressed by the scientific and medical community as well as those who manufacture these products, the NPA offers the following suggestions for those who use a lice treatment product and experience treatment failure:

*If you continue to be infested with live lice after the treatment, discontinue the product and don’t try similar products in the hopes that they will kill the lice. Remember, these are pesticides.

*Never resort to dangerous remedies such as lindane,kerosene, or pet shampoos.

*MANUAL REMOVAL IS CRUCIAL. You have to be screening for and removing live lice.

*If you are experiencing treatment failure of a product, please report it to the NPA’s Registry.

It has also been said that lice have become immune to the standard treatments. Some lice have developed resistance to the pyrethroids in these products. The active ingredient in Nix is permethrin and the active ingredient in Rid is pyrethrin. They are chemically very similar, and it has been found that if lice are resistant to one, they tend to be resistant to the other. Insects have the ability to evolve and adapt. They can develop a resistance to pesticides and Nix and Rid are both pesticide-based head lice treatments.

Permethrin was introduced to the US in 1989. This chemical is the synthetic version of the older lice product, pyrethrin,which is derived from chrysanthemums. The advantage of this new chemical was that it had a residual effect and that even after it had been washed out, it would keep on repelling and killing lice.

This residual effect is important because none of these products kill all of the eggs (nits). As a result, any eggs that hatch will create a new infestation. But Nix (the permethrin product) had a residual effect that would kill most of the baby lice as they would hatch. Unfortunately, this was not 100% effective. Soon after, only those lice most resistant survived and bred. Within a few years, some of these lice were resistant to the full strength permethrin–it was almost like they were enjoying it and eating it as it were food. The problem with head lice is that they live on people. The companies can not use any different pesticides without seriously harming people. So, they continue to sell the same old pesticide even though they know that the scientists and doctors have proven that the head lice are resistant to their products.

Due to these non-effective products, many organic, natural products with various oils and enzymes have been shown to be more effective. However, the best method is that of “nit picking” and hand removal of all the nits and bugs. In addition, you must comb, comb, comb!

Misdiagnosis of head lice may play another role in treatment resistance. Parents may misdiagnose head lice when they see flecks of dandruff or debris and mistake it for head lice and then have an entire classroom notified that there is an outbreak of lice. Because self treatment is available, overuse and misuse of the OTC products occurs, thus adding to the resistance problem. Treatment should only be started if there is a clear head lice diagnosis. Probably the most common cause of treatment failure is failure to identify and effectively treat all infested kids.

There have been strong debates over the “no nit policies” and schools. When having a “no nit policy” in place, unnecessary absences occur from school. However, organizations such as the National Pediculosis Association still support them. This non profit group states that not removing all the nits is the main reason why the treatments do not work and if children with hatching nits are allowed to return to schools and day care settings, the outbreaks will continue to happen. While missing school is a hassle or having to stay home from work is a hardship, readmitting the infested child is not the proper solution either. The policy for head lice must consider not only the infested child, but the child’s peers, the families, and the parents who have been successfully deloused or not yet infested.

Eradicating lice and breaking the cycle can be overwhelming. That is why I am here to help. Don’t let lice ruin your life. Lice have been given a bad “rap” so to say and with a little help from the Potomac Lice Lady, we can have those critters out of your head and you can be seeing a much brighter day!


Lauren Salzberg

Potomac Lice Lady