Human head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis De Geer) occur worldwide and infest millions of children and adults every year. Head lice infestations, which are known as pediculosis capitis, are psychologically stressful, physically irritating, and are one of the leading causes of K-6 school absence. The prevalence of head lice in many countries is increasing rapidly because of resistance to chemicals used in many head lice treatments. We tested the efficacy of an alternative method for controlling head lice, the LouseBuster, a custom-built medical device designed to kill head lice and their eggs using controlled, heated air. A total of 56 infested subjects was treated with the LouseBuster, and the efficacy of the treatment was evaluated by comparing the viability of lice and eggs on randomly assigned pre- and posttreatment sides of each subject's scalp. We evaluate treatment efficacy in the hands of novice versus experienced operators. We also evaluate treatment efficacy on different hair types and at different ambient humidities. Overall mortality of lice and eggs was 94.8% after treatment by experienced operators. Novice operators also achieved good results after a short training session; their results did not differ significantly from those of experienced operators. No adverse events were associated with the LouseBuster treatment. The LouseBuster is efficacious for killing head lice and their eggs. The use of heated air is appealing because it is a fast, safe, nonchemical treatment. Head lice are also unlikely to evolve resistance to desiccation, which is the apparent mode of action.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1