Date Published: 5 August 2005

University of London research shows that old-fashioned head-lice treatments are best

Researchers at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have found that the old-fashioned methods of getting rid of head lice in children are far more effective than current chemical treatments.

Results of recent trials indicated that using a fine-tooth comb and conditioner on wet hair was four times more effective than popular chemical-based treatments like lotions and shampoo.

The research team at LSHTM tested the "bug busting" fine tooth comb method and chemical treatments in a group of 126 children with head lice. A total of 56 children were allocated the comb-and-conditioner "Bug Buster" kit, while 70 were given insecticide-based treatments. The results were assessed two to four days after the end of treatment. Questionnaires to determine compliance with the instructions, satisfaction, and to obtain background information were also filled out by parents. The "Bug Buster" treatment showed a 57% success rate compared to just 13% for insecticide treatment.

The results are published in this week's edition of the prestigious British Medical Journal (

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) researcher Dr Nigel Hill said:

" Millions of pounds are spent each year by desperate parents or through NHS prescriptions on lice treatments and many seem to be virtually useless.
_ It's clear insecticide treatments are not working very well at all and if you speak to parents and school nurses they will confirm that

He explained that lice had become resistant to the insecticides most commonly used to kill them. He said:

" Chemical treatments were very effective when they first came out, but lice have become resistant. That situation is not going to improve - if anything, it will get worse."

Dr Hill added that this is the first study to show the 'Bug Buster' method is an effective and viable alternative to chemical treatments. He explained that although head lice are not a dangerous medical condition, some people do feel that it is a socially distressing problem, considered a stigma by some - and parents want "a quick fix". In addition, this matter consumes much time in GP's surgeries and among school nurses which could be better spent on more significant health issues.

" Head lice issues consume very significant resources, finance and time in an already over-stretched health service, so an effective treatment is desperately needed." said Dr. Hill.

Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

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