Lice removal: a growing industry

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Nit picking is becoming big business. More businesses are opening in Richmond and around the country to combat lice, the creepy crawlers that plague the scalps of school children. And treating the insects has gone high tech.

You don't want these guys on your scalp. They itch and lay eggs. The Centers for Disease Control estimate 12 million people, mostly school children, get lice each year.

Said Virginia Lice Removal CEO Gerry Wolburg, "They're hard to get rid of because they can survive smothering, they become resistant to the pesticides in the shampoos."

Parents usually buy shampoo with pesticide. You wash the hair, then wash it again 9 days later when the eggs hatch. A bottle of shampoo costs $10 to $20. Along with washing the child's clothes and bed linens, doing repeated shampooings can be a hassle.

That's prompted more businesses, such as Virginia Lice Removal, to open treatment centers, known as lice salons. And the latest technology uses hot air rather than pesticides.

Explains Wolburg, "It blows hot air which has been regulated to be the exact temperature that dries out lice and its a lower temperature than a standard blow dryer."

A diffuser keeps it from burning the scalp. "We move it in a circular pattern to make sure all the air is spread evenly," he showed us.

The process kills lice in thirty minutes. Then they remove the lice and eggs from the hair with a fine tooth comb. The process even kills super lice, which are resistant to pesticides.

"These ones came off customers that have been treated repeatedly with over the counter lice products," said Wolburg, showing us samples of dead super lice in a bag.

The number of lice removal companies around the country has quadrupled in the last few years. Parents are willing to pay the one to two hundred dollar fee to get rid of lice quickly and discreetly.

"Nobody wants to handle a person that has lice for fear of cross contaminating themselves," said Wolburg.

But business owners say it's no problem, and often offer a guarantee.

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