Few notes from school strike more fear in the hearts of parents than those announcing a dreaded incidence of head lice. Many of us can’t even hear the word without squirming in our seats or suddenly feeling the need to scratch.

But a new process is taking this common problem by storm. Heather Purtle is owner of Lice Clinics of America-Greenville. She is also owner of The School Spot, a teacher resource store in Greenville, and she is the mother of 9-year-old twins. Her children brought home a little something extra from school last year.

“They are fantastic, and they are also fantastic at giving lice to me,” Purtle said.

The experience led Purtle to what she called “a huge career change,” opening her clinic in January of this year.

The biggest seasons for lice are during the summer and around the start of school, Purtle said.

“You see a new spike after every break,” she said. “It is year-round. It used to be just a young child situation, but these are super lice, so they are resistant to the over-the-counter chemicals. It’s happening in retirement homes, in colleges. Moms are often the victim, as I was.”

Purtle advises parents to put brushes and hair accessories in the freezer overnight and to put stuffed animals and other often-snuggled items in the dryer or to remove them for two days. She said lice can’t live off the human head for more than 48 hours.

At Purtle’s clinic, the treatment process begins with a check of the hair, including using a microscope to screen samples taken with a lice comb. Some families just need a take-home treatment kit. Others have a treatment done in the clinic with an AirAllé device. The machine was developed by a scientist who studied bird lice.

“When his kids got head lice, he realized if he could dehydrate everything on them, they would die,” Purtle said.

Purtle said the machine has a 99 percent success rate in about an hour. The cost is $199 per person or $159 if the comb-out is done at home. Purtle said families can use their healthcare savings account to pay for treatment and in some cases, health insurance will reimburse the cost. The in-clinic service has a 30-day guarantee.

“If you have lice, it’s either a time or money issue to get rid of it,” she said. “With this, you are going to pay a little bit of money, but you are done.”


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