Head lice relief for parents?

You can only imagine my dread when I saw the bright yellow note posted on the door of my daughters’ daycare center: HEAD LICE OUTBREAK.

While my six-month-old doesn’t have much hair yet and isn’t likely to get lice, my older daughter has nearly waist-long curly hair and only recently began to allow us to wash it without suffering through a massive fit.

So any prospect of needing to wash her hair twice a day with lice-killing shampoo produced tsunami-sized waves of fear in me. It would surely result in eardrum-splitting tantrums that would likely having my neighbors wondering whether they needed to call child protective services.

But an article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine could promise relief to parents who, like me, live in terror of a lice outbreak. European researchers tried oral ivermectin (a drug used to treat worm infections and sold by Merck & Co. in the U.S. as Stromectol) on 398 children with lice and compared the results with 414 kids who got a topical treatment.

The researchers found that the medication given twice a week resulted in 95 percent of the children being lice-free after 15 days. The kids who used the lotion were 85 percent lice-free after the same period, leading the researchers to conclude that the oral ivermectin was better and “that it could be an alternative treatment.”

The study was funded by a Merck subsidiary.