What Are Super Lice?

Health Writer

As if lice weren’t bad enough, now we have super lice to deal with.

Actually, super lice aren’t new. They were first reported in the United States in 2000. This year, however, they are spreading quickly. A study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in March 2016 finds that all of the lice tested in 42 states were treatment-resistant, meaning they were more difficult to kill using over-the-counter treatments. Six other states had some, but not all, treatment-resistant lice.

What’s happening?

All living things adapt to their environment or face extinction. Lice are no exception. As more people used over-the-counter treatments for lice, the bugs began evolving and mutating. Treatments that had been used for many years became less effective.

What should parents do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends that over-the-counter treatments containing 1 percent permethrin or pyrethrins be the first-line treatment. Dr. Robin Gehris, chief of pediatric dermatology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, tells The Today Show that the over-the-counter treatments might still work, you just have to use them differently than before.

For example, leave the product in your child’s hair covered with a shower cap for several hours or even overnight before washing it out. Once the product is rinsed out, parents need to use a nit comb to remove any nits from the hair. In addition, these products need to be used twice -- once immediately and again a week later. If you haven’t eliminated the lice after two treatments, you should contact your doctor, who can give you a prescription for a stronger medication.

_Keep in mind: _

Head lice are pretty gross and a nuisance to get rid of, but luckily they don’t carry diseases and do not pose a danger to your child’s health.

Home remedies, such as covering your child’s head with mayonnaise, oil or petroleum jelly, might work by suffocating the bugs if it is applied thickly. However, there isn’t any proof of their effectiveness.

You can remove lice from clothing, towels and bedding by putting them in the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat. For items that can’t go in the dryer, put in a sealed garbage bag for two days. Lice die within 24 to 48 hours away from a blood supply.

It’s important to talk to your children about lice prevention measures. While there isn’t any guarantee your children won’t come home with lice, you can take steps to reduce the risk. Daily prevention measures are much easier than going through the hassle of getting rid of lice.

There are businesses around the country that will work with you to help rid your children and your household of lice. If you are having a difficult time eliminating the lice, turning to these businesses might be a good choice.

For more information on children and lice:

Back to School with Head Lice: A Dermatologist Discusses Your Concerns

What You Need to Know About Head Lice

Should Children Miss School Because of Lice?


Head Lice: Mayo Clinic

Head Lice Frequently Asked Questions: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHDIdiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral TherapyEssential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.