People's Pharmacy: Dealing with the dreaded lice call

By: Joe Graedon, M.S., and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate
September 17, 2013

Now that kids are back in school, some parents are getting the dreaded phone call.

When kids start scratching their heads and lice are detected, parents are called to come get their children, take them home and treat them. Many schools don't permit kids to return until they are nit-free.

One mother wrote: "My child picked up lice last year at his elementary school. I had never come across lice before, so I freaked out. I ran to the drugstore and bought the over-the-counter lice treatment.

"Though I tried it twice, neither attempt was even remotely successful. Besides, I worry that the stuff is toxic.

"Then I came across a mention of Listerine (amber). While combing my son's hair, I found a louse that I put in a small container with some Listerine. Within a few minutes, it was deader than a doornail.

"That convinced me. I soaked my son's head with Listerine, put a shower cap on him and left it for two hours. Then I combed and combed with a metal nit comb. I repeated that process every other night, and that solved our problem."

As this mother noted, over-the-counter products have become less effective because the lice have developed resistance. This leads to a lot of frustration and a search for other options. Listerine has produced positive reports. Parents also have used the non-soap cleanser Cetaphil (cetyl alcohol) with good results.

Here's one story: "The Cetaphil treatment works very well. I applied three treatments at one-week intervals to my daughter's hair, first drenching it and then blow-drying it.

"After just the first treatment, I couldn't find any more lice in her hair. One Cetaphil treatment kills all the lice, but not the nits, which is why it needs to be repeated."

More details on these and other lice remedies can be found at Despite the difficulty of overcoming resistant lice, they can be defeated with patience and persistence.


Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert.

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