Texas is serious about head lice. The state passed a law in 2017 that requires schools to notify the parents of every child in a class in which a student is diagnosed with head lice.
For Heather Smith, owner of Lice Clinics of America clinics in Lufkin and Tyler, this state legislation has resulted in a lot more families seeking head lice treatment.
“Our clinics have been a huge help for families looking for answers when their child or a classmate has head lice,” Heather said. “Most don’t know what to do.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, misdiagnosis of head lice is common, and the agency recommends families turn to a professional to confirm the presence of head lice. Lice Clinics of America offers professional head-checks and, if lice are present, treatment using the revolutionary AirAllé medical device.
AirAllé uses carefully controlled warm air to dehydrate lice and eggs. The device has been cleared by the FDA and clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs.
While an owner of a hair salon, Heather discovered AirAllé. “After being in the salon industry for years, we saw lice become more and more of a problem,” she said. “I was talking with a friend whose daughter had been treated at a Lice Clinics of America clinic and I became very interested in how the treatment worked.”
The AirAllé device came to market just as the most common over-the-counter lice products were losing their effectiveness. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that 98 percent of head lice in 48 states are now resistant to pyrethroids, the insecticide used in most lice treatment products. Other studies have linked pyrethroids to developmental problems in children.
Researchers studying animal lice at the University of Utah developed the AirAllé device. They found that the bird lice they were studying fared poorly in the arid desert climate. When one of the researcher’s children contracted human head lice that were resistant to over-the-counter lice products, it dawned on him that it might be possible to kill the lice by dehydrating them.
Ten years later, the AirAllé medical device came to market. It uses carefully controlled warm air to dehydrate lice and eggs. The entire treatment takes about an hour. Because AirAllé does not use pesticides or toxic chemicals, the process is both fast and safe—it is also effective against pyrethroid-resistant head lice.
“My husband and I began researching Lice Clinics of America and the AirAllé device online and loved the idea of it being safe and effective and insecticide-free,” Heather said. “I wish parents would stop using harmful pesticides on their children’s heads. If they would research what is in these products, they would not want to use them.”
Heather and her husband, Matt, opened their first clinic in Lufkin in early 2017 and opened a second in Tyler the same year. The couple has collaborated with a local children’s advocacy group to sponsor several families that could not afford to pay for treatment.
With more than 300 clinics in 34 countries (and counting), Lice Clinics of America is the largest and fastest-growing network of professional lice treatment centers in the world. AirAllé has successfully treated more than 350,000 cases of head lice, with a success rate better than 99 percent.
In most states, cosmetology regulations make it against the law to cut or style the hair of someone with head lice. Yet stylists are reporting more and more cases of head lice in their salons, which can be due to the fact that most lice are now resistant to the most common anti-lice products. So what is the best way to handle the situation if you find bugs in your client’s hair? Here is a simple 6-step plan.
- Confirm that what you see are lice. Identifying head lice can be tricky. A 2000 study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that people often mistake dandruff as head lice. Lice are brownish bugs about the size of sesame seeds. See the article, “Is it Head Lice or Dandruff,” to get it right.
- Don’t panic. Except for the itching, lice are harmless. Also, medical researchers have found no link between hygiene and head lice—your client isn’t dirty. Remember: lice can only spread by head-to-head contact, so as long as you’re not head-butting your client, you’re safe.
- Communicate calmly. Your client might want to shoot the messenger! You can make the difference between sending your client into a panic or simply helping him or her solve a problem. Calmly state that the client didn’t do anything wrong, and that 6-12 million people get lice every year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Let him or her know that there are now same-day treatment services available that remove lice and eggs in about an hour, guaranteed!
- Give sound advice. It is now proven science that traditional over-the-counter lice medications are no longer effective. Lice have developed resistance. Here’s the scientific study that proves it. This means that if you send your client to the drug store, you might be sending him or her into an abyss of futility. Also, you should discourage home remedies. These range from the ridiculous (mayonnaise) to the dangerous (kerosene). Seriously. People have died from using these things to treat lice.
- Direct the client to a medically proven solution. Lice Clinics of America offers the only FDA-cleared medical device clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs (nits) in a single treatment that takes about an hour. Success is guaranteed. The company also offers a non-toxic home Lice Remover Kit that makes home lice removal much easier and more effective.
- Invite them back. People are often embarrassed about having head lice. You can help them feel comfortable by letting your clients know that they are welcome back when they’re lice-free. You might even offer to make room for them later the same day if they get treated at a Lice Clinics of America clinic. You don’t want to lose a client just because you were the bearer of bad news. You can also be the superhero for recommending a “one and done” solution!
When you’ve had head lice in your home, it is important to properly clean the clothing, bedding and other materials the person with lice has been in contact with.
Here is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended laundry procedure: “Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that the infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry–cleaned,” OR “store in a plastic bag for two weeks.”
Doing a few loads of laundry is a lot easier and faster than filling plastic bags. According to the National Pediculosis Association, “You can also put bed linens, stuffed animals and other items in a dryer for 30 minutes.”
It is also important to wash towels, washcloths and hair accessories that have been in contact with the hair of someone who has head lice.
Parents don’t like to talk about lice. That’s a shame, because communication is one of the most effective ways to prevent lice outbreaks. If you know that lice are present in a school, daycare or camp, you can take precautions to protect your own child from getting lice.
The best time to talk about lice is before an outbreak happens. Many healthcare providers recommend that parents develop a lice response plan within their school or parent group so that they are prepared for lice outbreaks and have an agreed-upon plan to react. This way the discussion about head lice happens when no one has them, and without that added emotional charge. A plan might include recommendations for how to check for lice and available resources for treatment, as well as ways to prevent head lice from spreading—avoiding head-to-head contact and the sharing of anything like hats, brushes and backpacks that contact hair.
If another parent tells you that their child has lice, thank them for telling you. It’s not easy, as the social stigma around head lice remains significant. Not talking about it makes it worse. The fact that someone informed you will help you protect your children. After thanking the parent, the best message you can send is that it’s not that big of a deal—because it’s not. Yes, dealing with head lice is inconvenient, but aside from that, the more you can do to counteract the stress and embarrassment parents feel, the better.
If your children have lice, let other parents know through the school or through your network of relationships. Remember—it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. Your children aren’t dirty. They just “caught” lice from another healthy child, much as children catch colds from one another. Have the facts handy: Lice aren’t dangerous. Lice outbreaks are unrelated to hygiene (in fact lice prefer clean hair and scalps). Lice only spread from head to head (they don’t fly or live on animals—stuffed or live). You might want to share our blog, “It’s Time to Shed Light on Lice” to help educate other parents about head lice and to demystify the experience.
Another thing you can do to ease other parents’ concerns is let them know about a Lice Clinics of America’s professional, medically sound, one-and-done, guaranteed lice checking and removal service. Knowing that there is a fast, easy way to get rid of lice and eggs in a single treatment can relieve a lot of stress!
Want to get more specific? Here’s how a conversation might play out.
You: Hi , it’s me. Do you have a minute? There’s an issue with the girls.
BFF: Sure, what’s up?
You: Well, it seems that there is a bug going around, and my daughter caught it. I wanted to let you know because our girls spend so much time together.
BFF: Thanks. Sorry to hear that. What is it?
You: Well, this time is a literal bug. Head lice. At first I was freaked out and I didn’t want to tell anyone. But I sure wish someone had told me it was going around, and I thought that if we all get on top of it and get all the kids checked we can nip it in the bud.
BFF: Lice! OMG! That still happens?
You: Yeah, it’s a bummer. I’ve done some research. It happens a lot—6-12 million cases a year in the U.S. alone! But there are new ways to get rid of lice that only take an hour or so. And we have a clinic right here in town that can check the kids for lice and then treat them on the spot if need be. Peace of mind either way! I’ll send you the link.
BFF: Well, thanks for telling me. I’m a little freaked out but it might be easier if we work together!