VOL. 132 | NO. 33 | Wednesday, February 15, 2017
New Dehydration Treatment Putting The Squeeze on Strain of Super Lice
BY MARGOT PERA, Special to the Daily News
An epidemic of head lice called “super lice” has invaded 48 states this winter, including Tennessee. This special strand of head lice earned its nomenclature because it is resistant to pyrethroids, synthetic pesticides used in over-the-counter lice treatments.
The staff of Lice Clinics of America in Germantown. Marty Brown started the business, which has its original location in Tupelo, Missisippi, after her children had a frustrating bout with head lice.
Fortunately, there is a Lice Clinics of America franchise located in Germantown and they offer the only treatment proven to kill this itchy infestation.
“Over-the-counter drugs can be an 8- to 14-day ordeal, and there isn’t even a guarantee that will do the job,” said Marty Brown, owner of the Lice Clinics of America locations in Tupelo and Germantown. “We use a treatment called AirAlle, which dehydrates the eggs and kills it, a one-and-done deal.”
AirAlle (pronounced air-a-lay) is an FDA-approved medical device that kills lice and 99.2 percent of eggs in a single one-hour treatment.
“AirAlle uses controlled heat to kill the nits (eggs),” said Parker Kennedy, who manages the Germantown clinic. “We move the device across each section of the scalp and hold it there for 30 seconds, basically dehydrating and killing the nits.”
Brown got the idea for starting up a clinic after her own lice debacle with her kids.
“I was sitting in the airport in Atlanta, and Googling how to get rid of this awful thing, when I saw the website for Lice Clinics of America,” Brown said. “I looked at my mom and said, ‘We have to do this.’”
The Atlanta clinic told Brown and her mother the next steps for training, and by January of 2016 the two opened a clinic in Tupelo, and then opened the Germantown facility in May 2016.
“I was a stay-at-home mom before, and my mom was a nurse, but we both had nursing experience which helped out, because we don’t get grossed out by lice,” Brown said, laughing.
Brown’s clinic offers much more than the AirAlle treatment, including its own brand of lice shampoos and sprays.
“We use our ‘I Hate Lice’ preventative spray before every treatment, along with a surgical cap and gown, to ensure we do not contract lice ourselves,” Brown said. “We also offer an urgent-care kit that gives parents the ability to treat lice at home, but AirAlle is the only treatment for super lice.”
There are 6 to 12 million lice cases in the U.S. each year and outbreaks in Shelby County are common. Most schools have a stay-home policy anytime they find a nit in a child’s hair, which can be frustrating for parents.
“There is an unnecessary stigma around lice, because people think it is indicative of poor hygiene, but that is simply not true; they like clean hair,” Brown said. “Think about it, is it easier to crawl across a clean floor or dirty floor?”
Contrary to popular belief, lice do not jump or fly. They crawl from head to head, and typically spread more often from head-to-head contact rather than by sharing hats, brushes and other hair-care devices.
“The most likely way kids are getting lice nowadays is when they take selfies, sleep together at sleepovers, or roll around and touch heads with each other on the floor,” Brown said. “It is still a good idea not to share hats and brushes, but that is not really the primary way lice is contracted.”
Kennedy also learned about some lice myths when she started working at the Germantown clinic.
“A lot of things people do at home are unnecessary in terms of preventing the spreading of lice,” Kennedy said. “Concentration needs to be on the infected person, not the home. Typical cleaning is fine, but the extensive getting-rid-of-stuff cleaning is just not necessary.”
Brown said that using a vacuum or lint roller on the furniture is about all that is needed.
“Another common thing people are concerned about is getting lice through their pet, but lice prefer human blood,” Brown said.
Brown’s clinic runs by appointment only, but the turnaround time is usually same day. People can also come in to get a head check in cases where they do not know if they are infested or not.
“Sometimes parents come in and want to take the OTC route, which isn’t always a guarantee,” Brown said. “There are some cases where the OTC treatments work, it’s just a gamble.”
Although there are no fatal consequences to lice and lice do not carry diseases, there could be the potential for secondary diseases from lice.
“There were a couple of cases I treated where the kids had lice for two years, and scratched so hard they got a skin infection,” Brown said. “It’s like fever – if left untreated, it just gets worse.”
For these extreme cases, Brown scrubs a patient’s head with dimethicone oil and sends them home with a shower cap for next-day treatment, scrubbing the head out with Dawn before the AirAlle process.
Brown said there is nothing she can do about re-infestation.
“If you go to school and take a selfie and get re-infested, that’s on you,” she said.
Brown experienced this when she treated kids at a summer camp who went to back to camp and got re-infested, resulting in the entire camp coming into her clinic for treatment.
The AirAlle treatment starts at $189. The cost of each treatment is based on length and thickness of hair, but the AirAlle treatment is not available to kids under age 4.
“Parent’s can either bite the bullet and put a little more down to ensure it gets done right the first time, or take the gamble with the OTC treatments,” Brown said. “Very few of our cases ever have to come back.”