What is the Shepherd Method?

Katie Shepherd, the Founder of Lice Solutions Resource Network and The Shepherd Institute created The Shepherd Method of Nit and Lice Removal after years of studying lice removal products and techniques. She is considered to be one of the top experts in the head lice field. It is her firm belief that lice prevention can only be achieved through a methodical approach that includes consistent and careful combing.

Lice professionals trained and certified by the Shepherd Institute are prepared to provide the best treatment in the industry. Graduates benefit from continued support of Katie Shepherd and her staff. Shepherd providers have access to the most up to date information and research findings on new products entering the market. A network of over 500 certified businesses, both in the US and around the world share their experiences and knowledge with each other, supporting the common goal of fighting head lice in their communities. While there are many other treatments for head lice available today, the Shepherd Method consistently stands out as both the safest and most effective.

Treatment using the Shepherd Method starts with an initial head check to confirm the presence of lice. Next is a thorough stand by strand combing of the entire head using safe, non toxic products to remove all lice and nits. Treatment finishes with follow up rechecks after a week to ensure nothing was missed during the initial treatment, and that there is no ongoing exposure. While the initial cost and time investment can seem large in comparison to other treatment options, it usually ends up costing less time, money and caregiver stress. There is no exposure to dangerous chemicals, and generally the problem is eradicated after a single treatment. Shepherd providers are passionate about educating their clients, ensuring they are better equipped to deal with the next exposure, or avoid it completely. Shepherd clients are encouraged to identify recent contacts and help to get them checked and treated, thereby drastically reducing re-exposure and finally ending the cycle of infestation.

What about OTC Treatments such as Rid or Nix?

OTC Lice treatments are powerful pesticides. While they can be effective in killing adult lice, they do not kill all of the eggs (or nits) already laid by the adults. These products have been on the market for decades, and over time many strains of lice have become genetically resistant to the chemicals (Permethrin/Pyrethrin) that used to be so effective. “Super Lice” is just a term referring to this gradual development of genetic resistance, not a new kind of lice.

Properly using these products requires much more than a simple shampoo. Users must still carefully comb all remaining nits out of the hair, and the comb included in the kit is rated very poorly within the industry. Additionally, the instructions require a second treatment after a week, aiming to kill bugs that have hatched from the nits that were missed during the first treatment. The costs of these treatments add up quickly, as it is often necessary to buy several kits for long/thick hair. Costs multiply, time is wasted, parents get frustrated and overwhelmed.

Extreme caution should be exercised when using pesticide products on children. Side effects of popular OTC treatments include: severe allergic reactions associated with ragweed, as well as fatigue, pain, lung & sinus issues, digestive problems, insomnia, depression, memory loss, and light sensitivity associated with exposure to neurotoxins.

My Doctor wrote me a prescription, isn’t that the best treatment?

Head lice is not covered very thoroughly in medical school! Most pediatricians are ill equipped to identify or treat head lice. Many Shepherd providers are actually RNs and MDs who saw a real need for education and better treatment options. Common prescriptions include shampoos and topical creams using pesticides such as Lindane and Malathion. Interestingly, Lindane has been banned by the EPA for use in the environment and on pets, yet the FDA allows it for use on our children. Many countries have banned Lindane completely because it can cause cancer. Malathion is highly flammable and toxic, yet is often prescribed because it’s covered by Medicaid. The news is full of tragic stories of these products causing injury and death. Some users are not given clear instructions for safe use, or are not aware of the serious risks associated with a seemingly innocuous shampoo. Many of these chemicals, like the OTC products, are also losing their efficacy over time as the lice build resistance and do not kill all the eggs. Bottom line, even after exposing their children to dangerous chemicals, users will still need to perform the tedious combing to remove nits, or keep treating as the eggs hatch and the lice continue to spread.

Can’t you smother them at home with mayonnaise?

While it is possible to smother and kill adult bugs, it is easier said than done. Because lice can shut down their nervous systems for a period of several hours, they are difficult to smother. Using mayonnaise or various oils certainly eliminates the dangers of chemical treatments, however other risks have been associated with these treatments. Some instructions recommend coating the hair with mayonnaise and covering with plastic overnight. This can result in death by suffocation, and also carries a risk of salmonella poisoning. Even when done safely, this treatment is messy and unpleasant, and still requires daily combing for 3 weeks to remove nits and newly hatched bugs.

How do I prevent my child from getting lice again?

Lice are spread mostly through head to head contact. Kids love to hug, wrestle, read together, cuddle on the couch and otherwise provide the perfect opportunity for several adult lice to simply walk from one head to the next. Even after lice are successfully treated, they leave behind a scent identifying a suitable host for up to a month.This makes a re-infestation much more likely if there is ongoing contact with active cases. Lice do not like strong scents such as mint, tea tree and rosemary. Using a mint based preventative spray can help deter lice from choosing your child’s head. Keep long hair tied up in a tight bun or braid when your child will be playing with other kids. Lice cannot jump or fly, but loose hair can easily provide a bridge to their next home.

Minimal housekeeping is necessary to keep your family lice free. Lice cannot survive for long off the human head, so think about what your child may have been in contact with during the 24 hours before treatment. Furniture and carseats can be lightly vacuumed, or just covered with a sheet for 24 hours. Hair ties, brushes and combs can be placed in a plastic bag in the freezer for several hours to kill any bugs that may have mistakenly found their way to these items. Make beds with clean sheets, wash and dry the old ones on high when you have time. Stuffed animals can be tumbled in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.

The most effective preventative habit is to invest in a good lice comb, and comb hair thoroughly for 3-5 minutes at least once a week, or anytime your child seems unusually itchy. Check the comb carefully for any evidence of nits or lice. If you can pull a live bug off of your child’s head before it has a chance to settle in and multiply, you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Make combing heads into a weekly habit. Include lice combing as part of your normal Sunday bath routine, or check heads one by one during family movie night.

Many schools have moved away from the “nit free” policies, meaning some children are treated once with an OTC product, and return to school without actually getting rid of the problem. This, coupled with increased pesticide resistance or “Super Lice”, means that lice have become a bigger nuisance than ever for school aged kids. Knowledge, prevention, and open communication with other families and school administration will go a long way towards keeping your child’s classroom and your home lice free.