The once-common practice of using kerosene to get rid of head lice not only is outdated but also can be extremely dangerous, two health care workers warned last week. Donald Damschen and Dr. John Carlile of the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno cited the case of a 5-year-old girl who was badly burned when fumes from the kerosene her family used to treat her head lice ignited.
In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Damschen and Carlile said the family resorted to kerosene as a “delousing agent” after several shampoos apparently failed to get rid of lice the child acquired at school.
Undiluted lantern fuel was applied to the child’s head and she was then taken to the kitchen sink to rinse it off, they said. At that point, a “pilot light in the kitchen stove ignited the fumes, causing flash burns to the child and two other family members,” they reported.
The child was the most seriously injured, with burns over 40% of her body. She was taken to University Medical Center in Reno and is now undergoing skin grafting procedures.