Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Over the weekend, I dragged my family to see "The Switch." It was a great escape movie and a perfect "chick flick" with a happy ending. What does this have to do with kids' health? Well, one of the scenes was related to an elementary school child who had a case of head lice.

I listened intently while Jennifer Aniston instructed her best friend on how to treat her son's head lice. And guess what? The information was somewhat incorrect!

The writers must have missed the 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics abstract on lice and treatment recommendations that not only endorsed banishing the "no nit" policy (which had prevented children from returning to school), but also stated that "no healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice."

By the time a case is diagnosed, the child has probably had the infestation for at least a month, so why keep him home now?

Nothing causes more angst and disgust than when parents find that their child has lice, yet it has nothing to do with cleanliness. It's not unusual for everyone in the family to start scratching their heads and thinking they're infested, too.

The latest recommendations begin with properly diagnosing the infestation; it is thought to be both "misdiagnosed and overtreated," which may be causing resistance to over-the-counter products.

The two most commonly used products are Nix and Rid. It is important to know if your community is believed to be resistant to these two products. Depending on that information, you can start treatment; make sure to repeat the treatment in a week or 10 days to prevent new lice from repeating the life cycle.

Current recommendations advise washing all bedding and hair-care items used by the child within the previous 48 hours. In one study, changing the pillowcase alone was enough to minimize head lice transmission -- but if you are washing, you might as well throw in all of the bedding.

Louse survival off of the scalp beyond 48 hours is extremely unlikely, so it's not necessary to call in the "lice busters" to exterminate your house. Washing, soaking or drying items at 130 degrees will kill stray lice or nits -- and simply vacuuming the couch, car seat or other fabrics should be more than sufficient.

The perfect lice treatment would be both pediculicidal (killing the louse) and ovicidal (killing the eggs, too). The perfect treatment also would be safe, easy to use, inexpensive and would not have potential for developing resistance. But there currently is not a treatment method that fits this description.

Oh, by the way: We all enjoyed the movie, and the little boy is precious (and lice free by the end).

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show.


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Health - Don't Take Hollywood's Advice on Treating Kids With Head Lice