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Killing Lice At $500 A Head

What’s one of the fastest growing healthcare fields? A professional nitpicker — as in the profession of picking lice out of hair.

In a recent New York Times story, it’s becoming apparent that parents will do anything to get rid of lice. Part of it is the stigma associated with it, part of it is the “ickiness” factor. As a parent myself, I certainly understand the sentiment.

This is leading to a growing industry where those who kill lice can pretty much dictate their prices:

Indeed, even in recessionary times, the lice business appears to be thriving. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida have Licebeaters. Dallas has the Texas Lice Squad and Boston the Nit-Picker. (The puns abound.)

“I get 5 to 15 calls a day from parents who basically tell me: ‘I’ll pay anything. Just get this over with,’ ” said Ms. Goldreyer, a former New Yorker and once a production assistant for Conan O’Brien. Since 2006, she has been treating lice full time. She got the idea after picking nits at her child’s kindergarten during a lice outbreak a few years earlier.

But is lice really dangerous? Pediatricians say no:

Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a pediatrics professor at the University of Vermont and an author of the clinical report on head lice for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said: “I can guarantee you there are very few health consequences associated with head lice beyond the ick factor. If anything, having head lice is really just a hassle.”

Indeed, there are many lice myths floating around. For instance, “they are not a sign of dirtiness and they generally do not lie in wait on airplane headrests or inside lockers, hats or T-ball helmets, he said. Washing every sheet, rug and curtain in the house is also unnecessary.”

But I’m not sure those arguments will resonate with parents — especially those who have money and are desperate to rid their kids of lice.

And at $500 a head, the lice-killing industry shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*


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