Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Blast of hot air cleanses nits from the hair

Kiwis plagued by nits are welcoming a novel way to eradicate the pesky scalp-dwellers.

Hinia Tribble, right, runs the Nit Crew in Ponsonby, a one-stop shop for treating head lice. She is the only business in New Zealand to use a Air Alle medical device, which uses heat to dehydrate lice and their eggs.

Tribble has a clientele ranging from young children to septuagenarians.

"Largely, it's kids aged between 0 and 12, but then it's surprising how many teenage girls come to see me," she said.

"Men don't typically get nits because they have higher levels of testosterone so they don't taste good to lice. "Typically I'd see children and women, and the women can be any sort of age group. I've seen women in their 20s through to mums in their 30s, through to grandmothers.

"It's one of those funny things that as an adult you don't even think about nits until you have a child who has them."

Tribble said the Air Alle breaks the life-cycle of head lice.

An hour treatment costs $140, which Tribble admits might be shocking when compared to relatively inexpensive shampoos and combs, but is worth the money.

"The nervous system of a louse develops four days after an egg has been laid, and the chemical shampoos work on the chemical system of the louse.

"Unless you comb out all the eggs you're just going to go round and round in circles."

The treatment has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and Tribble is the only person licensed to use it in New Zealand.

She said the device was developed at the University of Utah over eight years, and uses a consistent temperature that dehydrates the lice without burning the client.

She used to take her services on the road, making nit-destroying calls to schools, rest homes and private residences until she found it was more efficient to have clients come to her.

She advises parents to be vigilant in checking their children for any signs of head lice.

"Early detection is the key because it means you're dealing with the eggs, which can be systematically combed out, rather than the hatched lice.

"The earlier they detect it, the less of a problem it is. It should be once a week or so that they have a look through their child's hair."

Because lice can survive for up to 48 hours off the scalp, she says people should be careful where they put their heads.

"It's things like not sharing hats, being conscious of pillow slips or other things that lice could come into contact with."

Thinking twice before snapping that group selfie could also go a long way towards avoiding the scourge that is a lice infestation.

"Even sharing mobile devices, there's a chance for lice to be spread. Lice are more prolific than they used to be."

- Herald on Sunday

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