Getting rid of head lice requires patience, perseverance

Q. My kids and I have a major problem with lice. We have spent lots of time and money fighting them, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good.

Nix and Rid (at $10 an ounce) are supposed to kill lice, but the lice are still alive after using these products. Then we wait another week or 10 days to spend another $70 to $90 to do it all over again. Two of my daughters have long, thick hair that requires two bottles each.

A friend has recommended kerosene, but that freaks me out. Isn’t there a more natural way to free us from nit-picking?

A. DO NOT use kerosene to kill lice. It is toxic and a fire hazard.

Lice have developed resistance to many of the common treatments used against them. The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new prescription lice medication. It will take multiple bottles to treat your daughters’ long, thick hair.

The new treatment, Ulesfia, contains benzyl alcohol as the active ingredient. This compound interferes with the critters’ respiration, so lice are unlikely to develop resistance.

Many parents tell us that Listerine works against lice. It contains ethyl alcohol along with a number of herbal oils that seem to kill lice. One reader reported: “I recently found lice and nits in my 7-year-old’s hair. When I tried the product the school nurse recommended, it did nothing.

“I tried soaking the hair with Listerine and rinsing with vinegar. IT WORKED! I wish I had known sooner.”

Neither Ulesfia nor Listerine kills nits, so the treatment needs to be repeated after they’ve had a chance to hatch.

Q. I am 51 years old, and my doctor says I can’t take estrogen or other HRT because I am very prone to blood clots. Do you have any recommendations for natural remedies for hot flashes and insomnia?

The hot flashes for the past few weeks have been every 15 to 30 minutes, day and night. I’m not getting enough sleep, and I am tired all the time. I work full time, so I need to be able to rest! Any information you can send would be greatly appreciated.

A. Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be effective against hot flashes, it is not for everyone. Estrogen increases the chance of blood clots, so it is too risky for women such as you. Even bioidentical hormones from natural sources could be dangerous.

There are other approaches, both natural and pharmaceutical. Antidepressants such as Effexor, Paxil or Pristiq can ease hot flashes, but they have many side effects and might be difficult to stop.

In Europe, doctors prescribe St. John’s wort together with black cohosh for hot flashes. A different herbal extract, Pycnogenol, may also be helpful for these symptoms.

We are sending you our new Guide to Menopause for an in-depth discussion of ways to ease symptoms. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site:

Q. Recently, someone complained to you of excessive sweating. That person might have an endocrine problem. I used to sweat so much that I would ruin my clothes. This stopped once I had my hyperactive thyroid removed.

A. Excessive sweating can be a symptom of too much thyroid hormone. We hope that girl’s doctor has checked her thyroid function.

XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Vindicator or e-mail them via their Web site: Their newest book is “Favorite Home Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy.”

2009 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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