Beware Lice 'Cures' on the Internet
April 14, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Nearly 30 companies hawking lice-killing
products on the Internet have ticked off the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What's bugging the FTC is outlandish claims that products are "100%
effective killing lice and eggs," they "eliminate the need for
combing," and "create an environment where lice can't survive." The
FTC says without scientific evidence, such claims cannot be made.
"Promises of sure-fire cures aren't always what they seem," Joni
Lutovitz, an attorney in the FTC's Division of Enforcement, tells WebMD.
"We want the advertisers -- whether they're online or not -- to offer
scientific support for their claim, and we want parents and other caregivers to
exercise caution when they're reviewing advertising and claims for
Also called pediculus humanus capitis, head lice are insects found on the
heads of as many as 6 million to 12 million people worldwide each year,
according to the CDC. Head lice are most often transmitted thorough
head-to-head contact. Not surprisingly, children 3-10 years old and their
families are infested most often. The CDC says girls get head lice more often
than boys, and women more than men. In the U.S., blacks rarely get head
There are three forms of lice. Lice eggs -- which are hard to see and are
often confused for dandruff or hair spray droplets and attached to hair shafts
-- are called nits. When hatched after about a week, the nit becomes a nymph,
which feeds on blood from the scalp. About seven days later, they become
Besides their visual presence, the adult louse is about the size of a sesame
seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish-white in color.
People with lice report a tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
They also experience itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites, and
sores on the head caused by scratching.
Having already brought three companies and their lice-killing products to
court -- Pfizer Inc.'s "Rid," Del Lab's "Pronto," and Care
Technologies Inc.'s "Clear" -- and forcing them to change their
advertising, the FTC's Division of Enforcement and its Western Regional Office
are just itching to go after these other companies.
According to Brenda Mack, a spokesperson in the FTC's Office of Consumer
Affairs, these 28 web sites the FTC found may be in violation of deceptive
advertising rules. "Staff have sent warnings stating that health claims
must be supported by scientific evidence," says Mack in a prepared
statement. "The FTC staff urged site sponsors to examine their claims and
warned that if they misrepresent the benefits of their products, or if their
claims were not properly substantiated, they may be subject to legal
Despite the stigma attached to lice -- it's considered a sign of poor
hygiene -- children of all economic classes and races get them. But this same
stigma often causes parents to seek the anonymity of the Internet to order