Your Health: Listerine kills lice; hand sanitizers, washing compared

2010-10-21T00:00:00Z Your Health: Listerine kills lice; hand sanitizers, washing comparedBy The Graedons Tri State Neighbor
October 21, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Q:My daughter ended up with lice several weeks ago. She most likely picked them up from one of the girls at a sleep over.

We treated her with lice shampoo twice and did every-other-day combouts. I also vacuumed, cleaned, washed and dried all her bedding and clothing at high heat.

The first time I treated her, I combed out hundreds of nits and about a half-dozen bugs. A week later with the second shampoo I combed out three bugs and maybe a dozen nits.

A week later I did the Listerine treatment. I combed out one bug and probably about a half a dozen nits. After another week of treating with Listerine, I have found no nits and no bugs. It really does seem to work.

A:There is increasing frustration with conventional lice shampoos. That’s because there are reports that lice may have developed resistance to common ingredients in over-the-counter treatments.

A relatively new prescription product called Ulesfia is a benzyl alcohol formulation that smothers the bugs. It is pricey though, running between $45 and $75 a bottle. That is enough to treat one head of short hair. For long hair you may need two or three bottles. The treatment needs to be repeated after a week.

A bottle of Listerine costs about $5. The alcohol and herbal oils in this mouthwash also appear to kill lice although the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for this use.

Q:I was in the hospital for serious injuries resulting from an automobile accident. They included a crushed tibia that was a compound fracture. As you can imagine there was concern about bone infection.

I also had broken ribs and a lung contusion. It was cold and flu season and I really didn’t want to be sneezing or coughing so I always asked about hand washing.

One nurse said, “I haven’t been anywhere except the nurses’ station.” I asked him if he had touched anything there and he responded, “Yes, but I haven’t been in another patient’s room.”

I politely asked him to humor me and wash his hands. He did but he clearly didn’t think it was necessary. I was appalled since that means I would be exposed to microbes from everyone in the ward.

There was a hand-sanitizer dispenser in my room. Would that be as effective as plain old hand washing?

A:Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be helpful but they are not an adequate substitute for conscientious hand washing with soap and water. Studies have shown that just rubbing hands with an alcohol gel does not eliminate C. diff., bacteria that cause serious diarrhea (Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, October 2009).

A new study from the University of Virginia found that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not very effective at reducing cold and flu infections. That might be because airborne viruses are transmitted through coughs and sneezes. Nevertheless, hand washing with soap and water remains the first line of defense against infection both in hospitals and at home.

Q:I have been making jewelry as a hobby for 15 years and was told by an old jeweler to use toothpaste on burns. Using a torch and working with hot metal make burns a regular, if not frequent, occurrence.

I put Crest toothpaste on burns and small blisters and they disappear shortly after applying it. My family doctor said it made sense to her because of some of the ingredients. I have told many other jewelers who have found the suggestion worked for them as well.

A:We’re glad your doctor thinks that toothpaste makes sense because of its ingredients. We don’t have any idea why it works but many remedies that people use for minor burns are equally mysterious. Those include soy sauce, cold yellow mustard and vanilla extract. The recommended first aid for a burn is immediate application of cold water. Serious burns require medical attention.

Copyright 2015 Tri State Neighbor. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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