Head lice

Updated 13 July 2016

How hot air can kill resistant head lice

Head lice are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides, but a new method that kills lice and nits with hot air promises a safe alternative.

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Head lice are becoming more and more resistant to the most popular lice-treatment products in the United States, especially those that contain permethrin.

As a result, these "super lice" are becoming more difficult to kill, increasing frustration and anxiety among parents.

Enter the hot air lice killer

The AirAllé device, which is an FDA-cleared medical device, is now used in 85 Lice Clinics of America locations around the United States to treat thousands of lice infestations each month.

The device forces air at just the right temperature across the scalp, dehydrating the lice and their eggs using heated air rather than toxic chemicals, effectively killing the cycle of eggs and nits.

Read: Diagnosing head lice

Clinical studies of the AirAllé device showed it killed 99.2 percent of lice eggs, which was important because many lice-treatment products don't kill eggs and require multiple treatments and extensive combing to remove the eggs.

In comparison, other clinical studies in the past six years have shown that permethrin-based treatment products, which lice have evolved resistance to, are less than 50 percent effective even after two treatments and 14 days.

Dr Dale Clayton, an evolutionary parasitologist who invented the AirAllé device, said, "There's no evidence that lice can evolve resistance to desiccation through heated air."

Watch: How the AirAlle treatment works


Read: Treating head lice

With 85 U.S. clinics and 105 international clinics, the treatment is available in South Africa through nitpickers.co.za

Read more:

This is the worst case of head lice you've ever seen

Hair-raising facts about lice

20 head lice myths debunked

Article resources:

PubMed NCBI (2014). Knockdown Resistance Allele Frequencies in North American Head Louse (Anoplura: Pediculidae) Populations. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007213/