Q: My kids and I have a major problem with lice. We have spent lots of time and money fighting them, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. A friend has recommended kerosene, but that freaks me out. Isn’t there a more natural way to free us from nit-picking?
A: Do not use kerosene to kill lice. It is toxic and a fire hazard. Lice have developed resistance to many of the common treatments used against them. The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new prescription lice medication. The treatment, Ulesfia, contains benzyl alcohol as the active ingredient. This compound interferes with the critters’ respiration, so lice are unlikely to develop resistance.
Many parents tell us that Listerine works against lice. It contains ethyl alcohol along with a number of herbal oils that seem to kill lice.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at peoples firstname.lastname@example.org.