FARGO – Look out, lice, the LouseBuster is here.
Both the YWCA Cass Clay emergency shelter in Fargo and Cass County Social Services have the machine, and they are gearing up for a new school year and the increased chance they will encounter clients dealing with lice.
The LouseBuster is manufactured by ComDel Innovation in Wahpeton, N.D., for Larada Sciences, a Utah company.
It was invented by a biologist at the University of Utah after his children came home with head lice.
Unlike traditional lice treatments that involve shampooing with pesticides and other chemicals, the LouseBuster uses heated air to dehydrate lice eggs and shock adult pests to the point that they ultimately die, said Krysta Turman, a sales manager for Larada Sciences who works out of the business incubator at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
“It’s so much less invasive for kids,” said Bev Bohn, social work supervisor in the family-based unit of Cass County Social Services, which finds foster homes for at-risk children.
“The kids are already going through some pretty tough times, so it’s less traumatic for them,” Bohn said of the LouseBuster.
The machine has seen limited use at the agency so far, but it worked well in ridding a household of the pest, according to Bohn, who said reducing the exposure of children to chemicals was a major reason the agency purchased a machine.
The YWCA shelter in Fargo got the machine just days ago and is training staff how to use it.
The device is expected to reduce the amount of time workers spend dealing with lice issues, according to Erin Prochnow, executive director of the YWCA Cass Clay.
She said a recent case involving two siblings required an estimated 21 hours of staff time to resolve.
With the LouseBuster, one treatment with the device, followed with a careful comb-out, is usually enough to eliminate a problem, according to Turman.
The device uses a hose and applicator to run air heated to 138 degrees Fahrenheit through a person’s hair.
Turman said it is more than 99 percent effective on eggs and more than 87 percent effective on live lice.
“Of course, you want to bring that up to 100 percent, so that’s why we recommend the comb-out afterward,” Turman said.
She said hundreds of LouseBusters have been sold since the device went on the market a little more than a year ago.
It retails for $2,600.
In some cases, Turman said, a service provider will lease a device and provide services to places like schools.
LouseBusters are also sold outright to schools and other organizations as long as they don’t intend to profit off the treatment, she said.
Mary Lystad of Fargo turned to Turman for help when she discovered that a young foreign exchange student who was staying at her home had a case of head lice.
“They were like my little lice angels,” Lystad said of Turman and a helper who brought a LouseBuster to her home.
An initial treatment was done, which was followed later by a second house call “just to make sure,” Lystad said, adding the treatments brought about a marked change in the girl’s sense of well-being.
“All of us noticed she was much happier,” said Lystad, who stressed that no one should feel embarrassed if they suddenly find themselves feeling, well, lousy.
“People’s initial reaction is it scares you,” Lystad said. “It’s really just a manageable annoyance.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555