Non-insecticides an option for treating head lice

The Canadian Paediatric Society is recommending non-insecticides in cases when insecticides are not working to treat head lice.

'It’s becoming a superbug,' says lice clinic manager

The Canadian Paediatric Society is recommending that non-insecticides are an option for treating head lice when insecticides are not working. (Shutterstock)

Head lice continue to be a regular problem for families with school-aged children — and some who monitor for the problem in the Maritimes say the bugs are getting stronger. 

The most common treatment is applying a topical insecticide, but health care providers and the Canadian Paediatric Society are reminding families to properly diagnose head lice before exposing children to the treatment.

Proper diagnosis 

"You want to be using this product when you have live lice present on the child's head," explained Sheila Marchant-Short, manager of Charlottetown Public Health Nursing.

"Otherwise, you don't want to expose your child to products that [they] don't need to be exposed to … If you don't see anything check again and keep checking. When and if you see live lice that's the time to treat."

The Canadian Paediatric Society is also recommending that those affected with head lice use a non-insecticidal product that either dissolves the skeleton or smothers the lice. 

This is a secondary option if using the insecticide after two full applications seven to 10 days apart doesn't work.

Insecticidal versus non-insecticidal

Tammy MacMillan, district manager of The Lice Crew clinic in Halifax, is pleased to hear that the Canadian Paediatric Society is recommending non-insecticides for treating head lice.

She said that new insecticides are effective at killing the bugs but not the eggs. Newborn lice also tend to be resistant and can burrow into the scalp, she added. Eggs have to be removed with a "special combing process" and a natural plant enzyme.

"It's becoming a superbug. It's become very resistant to the pesticides," she said.

With files from Natalia Goodwin