We are enthusiastic about many home remedies that have been around for decades. But just because a compound has a long history doesn’t make it safe.
This is especially clear when it comes to pesticides. Over the years, many have been discontinued, at least in the US, because they have proved too dangerous. But new hazards of old chemicals are being uncovered all the time. An international agency has just declared the lice shampoo lindane a hazardous cancer-causing agent, so parents are well advised to look for ways to treat head lice without lindane.
Q. My 10 year old just brought lice home from a friend’s house and gave it to her five brothers and sisters and myself. We have always used lindane but the doctor said to use permethrin instead.
That didn’t work. What else can we do? And what is wrong with lindane?
A. The FDA has asked doctors not to use lindane to treat lice unless all other treatments fail. Lindane can trigger seizures, a condition that is much more serious than lice.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently listed lindane as a carcinogen. It increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (Lancet Oncology, online June 22, 2015).
Ways to Treat Head Lice Without Lindane
There is a lice treatment that your doctor could prescribe, Ulesfia, which contains benzyl alcohol. It is pricey, however, especially for treating six kids plus yourself.
Other prescription lice treatments include Sklice (ivermectin) and Natroba (spinosad).
Smothering Lice with Cetaphil
You might consider treating the family with Cetaphil cleanser. This contains cetyl alcohol.
Dampen the hair, coat it with Cetaphil and blow it dry. Leave the hardened Cetaphil on overnight so that it can suffocate the lice (Pediatrics, Sep., 2004). Then wash it out in the morning.