My apologies in advance, because reading this article will have you scratching your head – literally. Maybe I’m just too suggestible, but even the thought of lice is enough to give me a bad case of the “itchies.” But it’s worth considering: Lice infestation is a real problem for many families, and the standard solution – slathering toxic, pesticide-laden treatments onto your child’s head, to remain there for eight to 12 hours – seems to be no solution at all. The chemicals cause sensitivity reactions and other side effects; and while they attack the live lice, they do little to kill the eggs, thus requiring repeated treatments and prolonging the entire miserable process. On top of that, many people are becoming immune to the ingredients in these treatments in the same way that overuse of antibiotics has caused their inefficacy in many cases.
Enter the LouseBuster. Laura Pittelman is a registered nurse and the founder and operator of Fresh Heads Lice Removal Service. She travels to her clients’ homes to provide an all-natural service that kills head lice and their nits (eggs) without the use of any chemicals or pesticides.
It’s a one-two punch: First Pittelman uses the patented, Food and Drug Administration-cleared LouseBuster device to deliver carefully controlled heated air at a specific temperature to kill the lice and 99 percent of the eggs. Then she follows up with a thorough comb-out afterward to remove the dead lice and eggs, along with any remaining live ones that managed to survive the LouseBuster. The entire procedure takes about an hour.
The LouseBuster device is reportedly effective because the small size and shape of head lice and their eggs makes it difficult for them to conserve water. When they’re exposed to the right amount of heated air at the right temperature for the right length of time, they dehydrate and die.
A regular hairdryer doesn’t work, says Pittelman; its temperature is too hot and the airflow rate is much less than that of the LouseBuster device.
Pittelman says that she was inspired to start Fresh Heads Lice Removal Service when there was a big outbreak of lice around her daughter. In researching the options for treatment, she learned that many people in the region were traveling all the way to the City (and paying New York City prices) to get pesticide-free treatments that weren’t available locally. It occurred to Pittelman that this was a great business opportunity. “Bugs don’t gross me out,” she says, “and I decided that this was something I could do. I love being a nurse, but this still gives me a chance to be with people, and I enjoy working for myself.”
The important thing for people to remember about lice infestation, she says, is not to keep it a secret. “It’s a very emotional experience for people,” says Pittelman. “They feel violated.” But head lice are not a reflection of cleanliness, she emphasizes. In fact, lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair (because it’s easier to cling to).
Lice are primarily transferred through head-to-head contact, so if your child gets lice, says Pittelman, it’s really a reflection of the fact that they have lots of loving friends to whom they get close. “It actually says that you have a clean, popular kid. Think of how kids play together: They put their heads together when they’re coloring, and they roll around on the floor; they’re not afraid to get close when they play.” Adults get lice when the kids bring it home and then cuddle with the parent, says Pittelman.
Lice are also transferred by sharing a hairbrush, hair accessory, hat, hooded sweatshirt or towel with someone who has lice. But the critters can only crawl; they don’t jump or fly from person to person (they don’t even have wings), and you won’t get lice from standing near someone who has them. They don’t live on your pets, because they can only live on human blood, and while they’re certainly unpleasant, they don’t carry disease.
Lice can live for roughly 30 days on their host, and during one louse’s lifetime she may lay as many as 100 nits. “A lot of people think that they get lice again from somewhere else after having it once,” says Pittelman, “but the fact is it probably was never fully taken care of. If you don’t get every one of those eggs, you’re going to have it again. If you have even two viable eggs left behind, give it three to six weeks and you’ll find that you have a head of hatched eggs laying lice again, repeating the cycle.” The LouseBuster device delivers the only treatment that she knows of that kills both lice and nits effectively and without any toxins.
Pittelman started her business about a year ago. Given that lice are a problem that people want to take care of quickly once it’s discovered, she schedules appointments as promptly as she can – sometimes even on the same day.
The LouseBuster treatment with a 30-minute olive oil comb-out costs $175 for the first client and $150 for each additional member of the household. If there is a lot of hair, or the case is severe, requiring additional time for the comb-out, an additional fee may be applied. Pittelman guarantees her services, as long as all family members have been screened (recommended to prevent reinfestation as well). Services can be paid for from a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account (FSA or HSA).
Woodstock-based Pittelman drives all over to treat her clients, she says, with distance no object, although a mileage fee is added for destinations out of her area. She adds that families need not feel stigmatized by her visit, either, in that her vehicle doesn’t have a sign on it proclaiming to the neighbors what she’s there for.