Consumer Reports: Back-to-school lice advice

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As kids go back to school, parents have to keep a close eye on lice. (WLS)

Getting head lice is easy. Getting rid of it can be a challenge, especially as school is back in session. Before you rush to the pharmacy for treatments, Consumer Reports reveals lice-killing alternatives that are safe and more effective.

Months after her daughter came home from school infested with head lice, Krystine Rodriguez still checks to make sure she is lice-free.

"I went to the pharmacy. I asked the pharmacy what was the best treatment to give, and at the time they mentioned Nix," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez used Nix, one of the insecticides recommended by doctors and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But research published by the Journal of Medical Entomology has found that over 98 percent of lice in the U.S. are resistant to the insecticides in popular over-the-counter treatments such as Nix and Rid.

"Lice have built up resistance to pyrethrum and permethrin, the main ingredients in these products, because of genetic mutations," said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumer Reports Senior Scientist.

Getting rid of lice is tricky: You not only have to remove the live bugs but also kill the eggs and nits, something the products don't always do.

"The chemicals on the market don't kill 100 percent of the eggs and they can pose some health risks," Hansen said.

Consumer Reports reached out to the makers of Nix and Rid. Nix says its active ingredient is still recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Rid did not respond.

So what is the best way to get rid of these pests?

Consumer Reports' experts say the best method is to physically remove the lice and their eggs by using a lubricant such as a hair conditioner or olive oil, and using a fine-toothed metal comb to go through the entire head.

"The space in the metal combs has to be small enough to allow a single hair to go through them, but not an egg," Hansen said.

Part the hair into very small sections and use a paper towel to wipe the small comb in between passings. When finished, wash or rinse the hair. Repeat this every day until no live lice or eggs are found.

To prevent lice from spreading, check everyone at home. Also soak combs and brushes in very hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. And wash or dry clothing and bed linens at temperatures higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat kills stray lice and nits. Seal anything that isn't washable in a plastic bag for two weeks, enough time to kill the lice.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2016. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit
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