nitsBritish families have spent over £20m on "ineffective" head lice treatments over the past 12 months according to new research.

More than half of 4-11 year-olds catch head lice every year in the UK, and research commissioned by the Medical Entomology Centre suggests that the last 12 months have been particularly bad as poor weather has driven children to spend more time indoors.

MEC director Ian Burgess said: "A miserable summer followed by a long winter have created an explosion of head lice infestations across Britain – and the country's nits are more resilient than ever to treatment.

"There are indications that during the last year there was an increase in infestations compared to the year before, because we had such a terrible summer. Last summer was a bonanza for nits because people were indoors and they were spreading around. It's about being in close proximity for longer periods of time. If you're inside watching telly or playing video games you're closer than if you're outside kicking around a football."

"Hopelessly inadequate" nit products
The research also revealed that British experts spent spent nearly £23m on treatments for nits. However, Burgess has warned that many commercial products are "hopelessly inadequate" against increasing nit resitance.

A study of insecticide-based shampoos that use the chemical permethrin found it is only 15 per cent effective in getting rid of infestations, down from a rate of almost 100 per cent when it was first used widely in Britain two decades ago.

Previous research by public health workers in Wales found that eight out of 10 products to treat infestations did not work, while parenting websites have recently called for a return of the 'nit nurse'.

Posted 03/04/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com