Alcohol, fine-tooth comb are effective against lice

People's Pharmacy

August 04, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. Friends have called in a panic about treating lice. Their 6-year-old daughter brought them home from summer camp.

When I was a girl, my parents used kerosene, but I hated it. These folks are reluctant to use insecticide on their little girl, so I hope you can tell us some natural ways to get rid of lice.

A. Kerosene is an old-fashioned home remedy that is far too risky. Don't use it.

A lice expert told us that alcohol is effective for overcoming lice. It is found in HairClean 1-2-3, along with coconut oil, anise oil and ylang-ylang oil. Clinical tests have found this product effective even against lice that have developed resistance to standard treatments.

Listerine mouthwash, which also contains alcohol, has been recommended by readers. It can be massaged into the scalp, left on for 15 minutes and then washed out. Listerine also contains essential oils from herbs, including eucalyptol, thymol, methyl salicylate and menthol. There are no scientific studies testing Listerine against lice, however.

No matter which lice product your friends use, they will get better results if they remove the nits with a fine-tooth comb. Such nit combs range from a few dollars up to vibrating electronic versions for about $50.

Q. My 18-year-old son has been diagnosed with depression complicated by anxiety and obsessive thoughts. He is currently taking Prozac for depression and Xanax for anxiety.

He has a hard time falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts that he cannot stop. He gets only five or six hours of sleep a night.

The doctor says that eventually Prozac will alleviate both the insomnia and the obsessive thought pattern. Sleeping pills like Sonata, Ambien and Desyrel have not helped him fall asleep.

His doctor has suggested adding melatonin or the herb valerian as sleep aids. Would either of these herbs interact dangerously with Prozac or Xanax?

A. Prozac and related antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft are notorious for causing sleep problems. Prozac can also cause anxiety and nervousness. Because Xanax (alprazolam) is such a short-acting drug, it too can cause rebound anxiety and insomnia as it wears off.

Taking a sleeping pill to overcome insomnia that might be a side effect is a tricky solution. Ambien and Desyrel might both interact with Prozac in a negative way. Melatonin has not been shown to improve sleep for patients on Prozac. The herb valerian should not be combined with Xanax because it might produce excessive sedation.

A different approach to treating your son might be worth consideration.

Q. I have a friend who is bothered with hiccups. Are there any good ways to stop them?

A. Swallowing a teaspoon of granulated sugar often works. So does sucking on a lemon wedge with a few drops of angostura bitters. Another remedy requires the victim to drink water while another person stands behind him to cover his ears.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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