A central Massachusetts toddler died after suffocating while undergoing a home treatment for head lice involving mayonnaise and a plastic bag.
Police in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston, responded to the 18-month-old girl's home at about 15:00GMT on Saturday last week after receiving a 911 call that a child was not breathing, said department spokesperson Sergeant John Delaney.
Officers found an adult administering CPR to the child, but medical personnel determined that the young girl had been dead for some time, he said.
Read: How to comb out head lice
The family had put the child to bed on Friday night with mayonnaise and a plastic bag on her scalp in an attempt to treat head lice, he said. As the infant slept, the bag apparently covered her face, suffocating her.
"This is a very sad incident," Delaney said.
No charges have been filed, but the incident is under investigation by local and state officials.
Read: Preventing head lice
There is little data on whether home lice treatments involving fats are effective, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health. The department recommends using prescription and non-prescription medical shampoos.
As many as six million to 12 million people worldwide get head lice every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What you need to know about lice
Head lice are about the size of a sesame seed. They are wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from the scalp.
Lice can't jump or fly, but crawl from head to head. The eggs of head lice (nits) can be seen as little white specks, glued to the scalp hairs.
Sharing combs and brushes
The easiest way for head lice infestations to spread is when people share combs, brushes, bedding and hats. Preschool and elementary-age children, aged three to 10, and their families are infested most often.
Pharmacist Giulia Criscuolo suggests the following tips for parents:
- Teach your child not to share hats, brushes, hair accessories or to bump heads with friends while using cell phones or other technology
- If you child’s hair is long, pull it back into a bun or ponytail to keep it close to the scalp
- Examine your child’s head and hair for 10 minutes every week under good lighting
- If your child has lice, do not send them to school and alert their teachers immediately
- To treat lice, use a non toxic anti-lice shampoo
- To avoid lice, try a preventative spray used on hair, hats, collars and shoulders
To eliminate all lice and successfully prevent re-infection, wash all clothing, towels and bed linen in hot, soapy water, and dry them in a hot dryer.
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