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Mom gets Malathion poisoning from using Ovide on her children.
March 7, 2007
Dear Lice Lady,
We have had such an ordeal with head lice! I feel obligated to share our experience using pesticides to treat head lice. My hope is that our story can be shared with the readers of your web site.
J.W. has never used the Lice Lady's products, so she cannot say whether they are effective or not.
It began when I discovered head lice on our 7 year old son. We began treating right away with over the counter kits. RID was the first one we used. We did the follow up treatment 7 days later and thought we had it taken care of. Before we knew it lice had spread to the rest of the family. We tried more OTC treatments - NIX, Pronto Plus, more RID. It all failed. After about a month of struggling we turned to our Pediatrician for help who gave us a prescription for Ovide, which is a 5% Malathion lotion. I desperately wanted a solution to this problem and I have to admit it would have taken a lot to make me not use this product. After all, everything I had read about it stated how effective it was and how safe. Both of those claims turned out to be totally false in our case.
After picking up the Ovide from the pharmacy I read and reread the package insert. I knew this was strong stuff and wanted to follow the directions carefully. I proceeded with caution applying it first to my husband, then to my two children and finally, to myself. Shortly thereafter I began to have a headache and slight stomach upset. I also experienced a slightly bloody nose. I did not know I was in danger at this point. As instructed, we all went to bed with the malathion on our hair. I awoke a few times with an upset stomach which was getting worse. I still did not know I was in danger. When I began trembling I woke my husband who helped me immediately wash the poison off. I then began having vomiting and diarrhea. The trembling turned into muscle spasms/twitches. My husband called poison control who advised us the malathion would work its way out of my system in 24 hours and to drink lots of water and gatorade. We did that through the night. The next day I began having very big and uncontrolled flailing arms and legs, chest pain, shortness of breath, tight throat (it looked like a seizure). My husband called 911 and I was rushed to the emergency room. I was given anti-seizure drugs and Ibuterol to open my lungs. I was diagnosed with acute organic phosphate poisoning (malathion poisoning).
In addition to becoming toxic, the malathion did not kill the lice! I was very ill and continued to have episodes of muscle spasms, shortness of breath, and chest pain mulitple times a day for several months. I had to have help come in to take care of my children. This was not a minor incident and the reason I am writing about it is to warn you. To this day, I still can not beleive I put that stuff on my children's heads. I am eternally grateful that it was I who got sick and not my children or my husband. Because I applied the malathion to the others I was the most exposed and absorped the greatest amount of poison. Please keep in mind that it did not kill the lice.
I truly understand the frustration of dealing with head lice. There is so much stigma about it and a real lack of understanding and education. It's the last thing I would have chosen to learn about! Thank you for taking the time to read this. I sincerely hope it helps you make more informed decisions.
Ed. note: Obviously. If J.W. had used olive oil instead of Ovide, she would not have experienced Malathion poisoning.
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Symptoms of malathion poisoning include: Abdominal or stomach cramps; anxiety or restlessness; clumsiness or unsteadiness; confusion or mental depression; convulsions (seizures); diarrhea; difficult or labored breathing; dizziness; drowsiness; increased sweating; increased watering of mouth or eyes; loss of bowel or bladder control; muscle twitching of eyelids, face, and neck; pinpoint pupils; slow heartbeat; trembling; unusual weakness."
Please note: the chances of absorbing malathion through the skin is increased with open scratches, sores or bites associated with head lice infestations.
Malathion is flammable and should never be used near any heat sources including hair dryers, electric curlers, cigarettes, halogen lights, etc.
In effectiveness studies from Medicis, makers of Ovide, 10% of patients had live lice on the head seven days after using Ovide. "The presence of ova (eggs) at day 7 was not evaluated in these studies. The presence or absence of live lice or ova at 14 days following treatment was not evaluated in these studies. The residual amount of malathion on hair and scalp is unknown."
Medicis, maker of Ovide states that "Ovide incorporates the pharmaceutical (USP grade) of malathion, and contains very few impurities. It is more chemically stable than agricultural grade malathion and is considered safe and effective when used as directed." Agricultural grade malathion has been linked to eye damage, decreased immunity, liver damage, cancer, nerve toxicity, and developmental problems.
Ultimately, it is parents along with educated health personnel who must weigh the potential long-term risk against the potential benefit of any product. When you consult with your health care provider, make sure that they are up to date on all available means to eliminate head lice infestations. Then make a rational, calm, educated decision. We recommend caution where pesticides are concerned.
Based on our experience, for best results, be sure to follow use of any pesticide with a complete olive oil protocol.
Ovide lotion (by prescription) which contains .05% malathion has been reintroduced to the U.S. consumer market as a treatment for head lice.
According to the National Institute of Health web site, "In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make."
Regarding malathion, the National Institute of Health web site states, "Malathion is a poison. Keep it away from the mouth because it is harmful if swallowed. Use this medicine only as directed by your doctor. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. To do so may increase the chance of absorption through the skin and the chance of malathion poisoning.
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