It affects more than 100 million people worldwide each year, and it can have a nasty effect on many who simply hear about it. We're talking about head lice. The parasites normally target children from three to eleven years old. Now there's a brand new method for treating this age-old problem.
Like most moms, Amanda Vandenakker wants to protect her son from head lice, but her guard is up from personal experience. "It's uncomfortable. It's itchy. I had it as an adult because I work with kids," Vandenakker said.
The problem of lice has grown in recent years because the tiny bugs are becoming more resistant to common treatments like shampoos and lotions. Now a new study finds a better way to fight lice may be with a pill called Ivermectin, also known as stromectol. After taking the pill, the medication, which is toxic to parasites, circulates through the bloodstream, and deprives lice of what they need to survive. "The lice, who have to feed on the human host about six times a day on the host's blood, will then ingest the medication and be killed," Pediatrician Gabrielle Gold-von Simson said.
The study compared the pill with a strong lotion and found the pill was more effective in the more difficult to treat cases. Right now it's only FDA-approved for treating other parasites like worms and scabies. Ivermectin hasn't been approved for lice, but doctors can still prescribe it. However, many warn that because of its strength, the medicine should be used for the most severe cases.
Although head lice can be a major headache, experts agree that parents can rest easy knowing all that itching doesn't pose any serious risks.
Alternative treatments for head lice are controversial. Some doctors say Ivermectin should not be taken as a first-line defense and warn that lice could become resistant to Ivermectin just like other treatments.