New treatment for head lice Gadget: A humming comb that acts like a bug zapper is now being tried in some Maryland schools.

October 04, 1998|By Lesly Borge | Lesly Borge,Contributing Writer

Is there anything more annoying than finding out that you or your child has head lice? How about not finding a safe and effective treatment? Well, there may be an answer to your problems.

What's being touted as the first electronic head-lice remover is now being sold in the United States. In Maryland, the Frederick County Health Department, Roland Park Country School and the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington in Silver Springs are trying it.

Robi Comb is a head lice treatment, using no pesticides, in the form of an electronic comb, introduced by ARR HealthTechnologies. Powered by a single AA battery, the metal-toothed comb acts as a mini bug zapper, humming as it passes through the hair. When a louse is picked up between the comb's teeth, it is zapped and, because the electrical circuit between the teeth is broken, the hum stops, signaling that the dead louse can be removed with an accompanying brush.

The product was developed in Israel in 1991 by Mepro Epilady Ltd. and has been in use there for six years, as well as in England, France and Germany.

Currently, the most popular treatment for head lice are pesticide-based shampoos. "Robi-Comb has a variety of advantages over the pesticide-based shampoos used widely to treat head lice," says Richard Brudnick, president of ARR. "First, it is nontoxic, and so poses no risk of irritation to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth.

It can be used repeatedly to prevent re-infestation, common among schoolchildren. And it may ... be the best weapon against the pesticide-resistant 'super louse,' which seems to be developing.

"Parents have tried to respond to this super strain of insect by using the shampoos over and over again," says Brudnick. "Unfortunately, in some cases, the shampoos themselves are irritants to the scalp, a condition which is exacerbated by scratching in response to the lice. It's a vicious cycle."

Experts believe there are as many as 20 million cases of head lice in the United States, but only six million cases are reported annually by school nurses.

Robi-Comb, $29.95, does not kill the nits, or eggs. The company suggests using it each day for seven to 10 days while the eggs are hatching, to kill the lice as they hatch, then every other day for as long as there is a problem.

An advantage to using Robi-Comb is that it can be used on a number of children, and repeatedly.

In Maryland, the Frederick County Health Department found the product to be effective, and said many of the county's schools have inquired about it. Health officials still suggest doing the usual follow-up activities, such as careful cleaning of all items in the home.

Leah Covel, the school nurse at the Hebrew Academy, found the product to be "very helpful, especially to parents in letting them know if lice truly do exist."

The Roland Park school has not had the opportunity to use the comb yet.

Robi Comb can be found at Walgreens, Eckerd's and Drug Emporiums, and can be ordered at or at 781-598-9133.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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