Updated on September 8, 2020
Updated on August 30, 2020 by Diana Doty
At LiceDoctors, we often get calls from school nurses, directors, or other personnel at local schools who are completely fed-up with the seemingly endless task of eliminating a head lice outbreak. It is not unusual for us to hear a parent or school administrator (especially from preschools) say that she or he has disinfected the entire classroom (or house) with lice disinfectant sprays and yet the lice infestation persists. “Do you do lice fumigation, or can you recommend a pesticide for head lice in classrooms?” they ask wearily. We try to gently explain that, although their efforts are valiant, they will be in vain until they start asking the right questions...
Do Lice Pesticides Really Help?
First, we should be asking, “can lice infest classrooms?” Head lice do not survive long off the head; once parted from the host, lice will die in approximately 24 hours WITHOUT ANY INTERVENTION. There is a lot of confusion between different types of lice and other bugs perpetrated by the internet that leads people to believe that a massive amount of environmental cleaning is necessary to eliminate lice; it’s not uncommon for even doctors and health professionals to believe in this myth if they have little personal experience with head lice. Save yourself a headache, and truly absorb these words: head lice cannot infest environments, period, therefore pest control for lice in a classroom should not include using pesticide for head lice in the room.
Second, we should ask, “does disinfectant spray kill lice?” It seems a silly question, since that is the only intended purpose of lice disinfectant spray...but the answer is shockingly disturbing: if these sprays contain common pesticides like pyrethrins or permethrins (check the label; most do), experts have known for over a decade now that over 99% of American head lice are genetically resistant to these pesticides! Source: BioOne.org
Many school personnel take the chance anyway, feeling pressure from parents and staff to control the situation, at a loss for other options, and working off of inaccurate information. But it’s important to know that many lice fumigation sprays are filled with harsh chemicals that people and pets inhale, and they may cause side effects for the children and teachers that are exposed.
Will Lysol Kill Lice?
While frantically cleaning, parents often wonder what cleaning products to use after a lice outbreak. The active ingredients in Lysol are a form of benzalkonium and ethanol (alcohol), which are intended mainly for killing viruses and bacteria, but does Lysol spray kill lice on surfaces? Does disinfectant spray kill lice? There’s no published evidence that Lysol is effective at killing lice, but of course, we’ve wondered ourselves; can Lysol disinfectant spray kill lice on contact, just to go the extra mile with clean up after lice removal? Our own experimentation has shown that lice can be doused in Lysol and survive seemingly unscathed.
Plus, again, we were asking the wrong questions...instead of “can disinfectant spray kill lice?” we should be asking, “is it helpful to attempt to kill lice on household surfaces after lice treatment?” As it turns out, with our process, it doesn’t matter. In our opinion, lice have about equal chances of surviving on a hard surface like a floor or countertop overnight with or without intervention. Sometimes, though, we wonder if there is a more sinister intention behind the question “will disinfectant spray kill lice?” so we feel it’s important to mention that nobody should ever spray surface disinfectant on their hair and scalp to attempt to kill lice...this is not only ineffective, it is also unhealthy and potentially dangerous.
Alternative Lice Treatment
Many families choose alternative head lice treatment as opposed to the typical chemical shampoo method for health reasons; while we agree that pesticide-free lice treatment is usually safer and healthier for your family, some alternative treatments may cause side effects or allergies. https://www.licedoctors.com/blog/natural-treatments-for-lice.html There are different options when it comes to natural lice treatment (LiceDoctors - Do Home Remedies Work?), but only LiceDoctors’ proven and time-tested methods are able to boast a phenomenal success rate of 99.6% with no side effects. In fact, we even guarantee that the lice won’t come back after our treatment, even if you do no significant cleaning, laundry or disinfecting.
It Is Better To Wait Them Out Than To Clean Them Out
The target of any effective head lice treatment should be the heads and people, not the house or the classroom. You can spray a whole school every minute of every day, but if just a few lice eggs remain in someone’s hair, then you still have a lice problem. But on the flip side, any school that is closed on the weekends should be lice-free by Monday since head lice cannot survive for more than 24 hours tops (and usually far less time) after falling off of a human host. Lice can barely move around if they’re anywhere but in human head hair, and they can’t lay eggs on anything but a human hair attached to a human scalp. Eggs attached to shed hairs die without warmth from the scalp, and cannot reattach to new hosts. It is estimated that only about 5% of lice cases are transmitted via objects like hats, and again, there is a time limit on that possibility that wouldn’t last the weekend.
So please, don't waste time or money attempting to bag, launder, or clean your classroom or home; focus on the heads. LiceDoctors - How Do I Get Rid of All of the Head Lice in My House? Chemical pest control for lice in classrooms is not healthy or useful. Parents and school personnel may feel a need to be proactive, which is understandable, but using a lice pesticide fogger or disinfectant spray is not the answer.
The best way to help with a lice outbreak at your school is with student head checks and parental notification (where permitted). There is no reason to feel guilty for telling parents about a lice outbreak; educate parents that lice live on kids, not in schools. LiceDoctors - Calling For Major Lice Initiative Through Schools LiceDoctors can provide school head checks any time you need them, so your valuable personnel can continue their important jobs.