Petroleum jelly to treat lice is not very nice

People's Pharmacy

October 25, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q.Last year my granddaughter caught lice at school. I read about using petroleum jelly and told my daughter about it. Well, the whole family tried it together. What a nightmare! Nothing will wash it out!

I called the 800 number on the jar, and someone told me they had had a rash of calls because of the article in the paper. The whole family had to go to work and school with petroleum jelly in their hair.

I felt awful, because I was the one who told them about your article.

A.Guilty as charged. We feel terrible. Petroleum jelly is a mess to remove. Here's how this lice remedy evolved:

A reader responded to a desperate plea for help from another mom. She wrote: "Our pediatrician consulted Dr. Neil Prose of Duke University, who recommended applying pet-roleum jelly to the children's hair. I applied petrolatum to each child's hair and scalp, then put a plastic shower cap on each child while they slept. The next morning I washed the Vaseline out (pouring baby oil on the hair helped with this chore). The lice were gone."

We were amazed and contacted Dr. Prose, a pediatric dermatologist. He said he occasionally recommended this petroleum jelly treatment as a last resort.

Q. I read somewhere about using Nutrasweet for joint pain relief. Is this for real? How much do you use?

A.This is one of the few home remedies that has actually been tested in a double blind, placebo-controlled manner and published in a reputable journal, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (May 1998). The researchers discovered that doses of 76 milligrams and 152 milligrams eased arthritis pain measured during walking and climbing stairs.

Some readers have complained that aspartame in any form gives them headaches. It may also increase bleeding time, so it is probably inappropriate for people taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin.

Q.What can you tell me about melaleuca oil and its uses? I've heard it's used extensively in Australia in antiseptics, soaps, creams, you name it.

A. Tea tree oil comes from an Australian tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. It has been used there as an antiseptic in surgery and dentistry. It has antibacterial and antifungal activity and is found in many cosmetic products including soaps and acne remedies.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

King Features Syndicate

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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