Acknowledged in the classic poem by Robert Burns, “Ode to a Louse,” lice are definitely an unfortunate part of communal life, especially involving school attendance. But take hope. There is a new treatment available that has been a health boon for several reasons.
With existing medicines for treating lice there are two major problems: resistance and allergy. Unfortunately, many species of head lice have developed resistance to the standard therapies; that is, they aren’t killed by the once-effective therapies such as permethrin and pyrethrin. Second-line drugs such as lindane and malathion don’t incur resistance, but their use is restricted due to safety concerns.
The traditional therapies permethrin and pyrethrin are found in a variety of products, both over the counter and by prescription, (such as Nix). Their use, however, has always been difficult in allergic individuals because they cross-react with ragweed and can lead to skin rashes, hives and even asthma.
The new therapy utilizes the drug Ivermectin in a topical hair lotion. Ivermectin has been used for many years in an oral form to treat a wide variety of intestinal worm infestations. Only recently did scientists think to try it in a topical form to treat lice. In a research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine it was shown that a single 10-minute application was almost uniformly effective in eliminating the lice. Additionally, it was safe in individuals with allergies.