Dr. Dean

Malathion: It's Back - To Treat Head Lice

Posting Date: 09/09/1999

If you have children with lice, you may want to consider putting a pesticide dust on their head because it?s one of the only products that works against the parasites.

The product is malathion, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved its use for the treatment of head lice.

Malathion is the same pesticide that got publicity a few years ago when it was sprayed from helicopters to stop a fruit fly invasion in parts of California. Of course, many people panicked and protested the spraying, which was proven to be safe.

I have no problem recommending malathion as a head lice remedy. For one thing, there?s only 0.5 percent of malathion in the product and it is shown to be 100 percent safe and effective against head lice.

Malathion is known as an irreversible cholinesterase inhibitor, which means it can be dusted on the skin without harmful effects to the cells or the blood stream because its toxicity is quickly neutralized.

A lot of parents know how difficult head lice are to get rid of because the parasites have developed a resistance to over-the-counter products used in the past. There?s actually an epidemic of lice because of the difficulty of killing both the adult bugs and the eggs, or nits.

A clinical trial of malathion with 68 patients showed 100 percent success in getting rid of lice within 24 hours. After seven days, 95 percent of the patients remained lice-free, according to a report in The Medical Letter.

One good thing about malathion is it keeps the nits from hatching and sticks to the hair to give residual protection. Data suggests that a two-hour treatment time or less is sufficient.

Like most lice treatments, nits should be removed with a fine-tooth brush several hours after the malathion application.

Malathion?s got a bad rap in the past and was even removed from the market for awhile because of public fears over pesticides. Its reintroduction is welcome because of the need for a product that can safely get rid of a tough strain of lice.

Source: The Medical Letter, August 13, 1999