Old-fashioned methods of getting rid of head lice in children are far more effective than current chemical treatments, researchers revealed recently.
Using a fine-tooth comb and conditioner on wet hair was four times more effective than popular chemical-based treatments like lotions and shampoo.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) researcher Dr Nigel Hill said: "Millions of pounds are spent each year by desperate parents or through NHS prescriptions on lice treatments and many seem to be virtually useless.
"It's clear insecticide treatments are not working very well at all and if you speak to parents and school nurses they will confirm that."
Dr Hill explained that lice had become resistant to the insecticides most commonly used to kill them.
He said: "Chemical treatments were very effective when they first came out, but lice have become resistant. That situation is not going to improve - if anything, it will get worse."
The research team at LSHTM tested the "bug busting" fine tooth comb method and chemical treatments in a group of 126 children with head lice.
A total of 56 were allocated the comb-and-conditioner "Bug Buster" kit, while 70 were given insecticide-based treatments. The results were assessed two to four days after the end of treatment.
Questionnaires to determine compliance with the instructions, satisfaction and to obtain background information were also filled out by parents. The results are published in this week's edition of the prestigious British Medical Journal.
The "Bug Buster" treatment showed a 57 percent success rate compared to just 13 percent for insecticide treatment.
Dr Hill said: "This is the first study to show the 'Bug Buster' method is an effective and viable alternative to chemical treatments, although some may consider that the cure rate is still not acceptable and it can be rather time-consuming.
"At present, however, there is no readily-available product which provides fully effective control of head lice. There is a need to identify new, safe and effective treatments."
Dr Hill said that head lice were not a dangerous medical condition, but that some felt the problem was "a socially distressing condition, considered a stigma by some and parents want a quick fix."
And he added that the problem consumed a lot of time in GP's surgeries and among school nurses which could be better spent on more significant health issues.
Dr Hill said: "Head lice issues consume very significant resources, finance and time in an already over-stretched health service, so an effective treatment is desperately needed."