Family life: Can head-lice products harm children?

Head-lice are horrible - but can the treatments be harmful to children?
Head-lice are horrible - but can the treatments be harmful to children?

Q: I’ve read that a French study has shown some pesticide-based head-lice products could lead to behavioural problems in children.

Are most head lice products in the UK pesticide-based? My daughter’s got head lice, but I don’t know what to buy to get rid of them.”

A. Ian Burgess, director of the Medical Entomology Centre, says: “At this stage, the research doesn’t show definitively that head-louse products were involved, although one of the most common childhood exposures to insecticides can be through head louse treatments and several of these are still available in continental Europe.

"There’s currently only one head-louse product that uses this type of insecticide in Britain, and that is little used.

“The insecticide-based treatments are widely used in the USA and recent press reports of resistance to treatments have confused consumers in Britain into thinking our products are affected in the same way.

"This confusion was confirmed by a Hedrin survey that showed more than a quarter of parents in the UK get stressed about lice because of fears of resistance leading to treatment failure.

“All the head-louse treatments you can buy in British supermarkets, and most from pharmacies, don’t contain insecticides.

"Instead, they work by smothering lice using oils like dimeticone, which aren’t absorbed through the skin.

“I would advise parents to check their family for lice once a week - an easy way to remember is, Once A Week, Take A Peek.

"If you find lice before they’ve properly established then treatment isn’t such a stressful and onerous task.”