‘Super Lice’ Spreads Across America
Lice resistant to over-the-counter treatment now found in 42 states, including yours.
A lot of Illinois children returned to school this week, which vastly increases the chances they’ll bring home report cards, permission slips and schoolyard crushes. But your kid’s chances of getting head lice, the bane of scalps, doesn’t increase even in a crowded classroom.
Still, you should be wary. “Super lice” have expanded their reach across the United States. (Yes, “super lice.”)
Last year, 25 states reported infestations of the so-called super lice, the strain of head lice immune to common over-the-counter treatments. This year, super lice have been found in 42 states. They are resistant to many of the chemicals commonly found in readily available lice treatments, and the genetic mutations that cause resistance “are widely and uniformly present in U.S. lice.”
The good news: Head lice themselves aren’t harmful to humans and don’t carry disease.
“Head lice are a nuisance,” Dr. Cindy Devore, a researcher and spokeswoman for the American Association of Pediatrics, told Patch, “not a personal or public health threat.”
More good news: schools are NOT a breeding ground for the spreading of lice.
Lice don’t jump or fly. They crawl. So it would be difficult for them to make it across classrooms and desks to infest a whole classroom or school. Summer camps and sleepovers — where kids may be in regular head-to-head contact with each other — are a different story.
But schools are generally safe.
“If they were highly transmissible in schools, you would expect the entire classroom to be infested by four to six weeks of having one infestation in the classroom, but that is not what we see,” Devore said.
The bad news, Mom and Dad? If your kid has lice, it’s probably your fault.
“Schools do get blamed, because head lice in America, like any parasite, are not something that a parent wants to take ownership for and therefore will be quick to place blame on another,” the doctor said.
Nobody wants little critters crawling around on their or their kid’s heads. It’s annoying, itchy and, frankly, pretty gross. So how can you keep them away? Here are some tips.
1. Avoid head-to-head contact
Your children should avoid direct contact with other kids’ heads and, specifically, their hair: headbutting playing sports, hugging, having sleepovers or staying in close quarters at camp.
If they don’t make direct contact, it’s tougher for the lice to jump on board.
2. Don’t share clothes, especially jackets and hats
This is the other most common way lice spread, according to the CDC.
Make sure your child has their own shirts, hats, hair ribbons/barrettes, sports uniforms and — especially once the weather cools down — jackets and scarves. Bulky clothes are more likely to be in contact with a person’s head or hair, giving lice a free ride to hop on board and find a new host.
And if for some reason they need to share clothes…
3. Wash clothes and sheets regularly
Lice can’t live off of their host for more than a day or so, but to make sure they’re completely dead, wash clothes, sheets and pillowcases regularly in hot water to completely neutralize them and their eggs.
If you know your child shared his or her jacket, give it a good, hard wash to make sure any possible critters won’t survive.
4. Try specialized shampoo and combs
The shampoo has special chemicals designed to fight off the pests, and fine combs have been made to weed out the lice and nits, their eggs.
But you may be dealing with some of the “super lice” mentioned in the above study. In that case…
5. See your doctor for stronger medicine
There are still treatments out there that these so-called super lice aren’t yet resistant to, but many of them are only available via prescription.
If you’ve exhausted all the preventative measures above but still find a head infested with lice that just won’t die, go see a doctor who can get you the firepower you need to say goodbye to lice for good.