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Giving Lice the Blowoff

A new treatment for head lice

  • Hannah Schardt
  • Feb 01, 2007
HEAD LICE infestations are itchy, uncomfortable and--as the parents of many school-age children know--notoriously difficult to get rid of. Americans spend more than $160 million each year on anti-louse shampoos, which often require repeat treatments to kill all the lice and their eggs. Many parents, concerned about toxicity, are reluctant to use the insecticide shampoos on their children. And lice are quickly developing resistance to the insecticide formulas.

But a new device, developed by biologists at the University of Utah and currently in the early stages of development for commercial use, could help change all that. The LouseBuster is a machine that blows warm air through a hose, killing the lice and nits by drying them out. It works in a single 30-minute treatment, as opposed to the chemical shampoos that require multiple applications one to two weeks apart. In a recent study on 169 infested children, nearly all of the subjects were cured of head lice when examined one week following treatment.

"The LouseBuster is particularly effective because it kills louse eggs, which chemical treatments have never done very well," said Dale Clayton, a Utah biologist and co-inventor of the machine. "It also kills hatched lice well enough to eliminate entire infestations."

Best of all, the device eliminates the need for toxic chemicals--and gets kids back to school faster.

Hannah Schardt is a senior associate editor for National Wildlife. She also wrote about bedbugs for this issue.

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