A new type of head lice that has shown to be resistant to the usual forms of treatment have been discovered in infestations recorded in 48 states, according to researchers, giving parents something else to think about as the school year gets underway.
According to a story from USA Today, a study published in a medical journal in March revealed the emergence of a type of “super lice” that has become resistant to over-the-counter shampoos and treatments with which many parents are familiar.
The story quotes Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Health, who says that while the newly discovered lice aren’t necessarily worse than your average louse, they are a bit harder to get rid of.
“They’ve just become resistant to some medications used to treat them,’ Qyinlisk explained.
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, says the lice have been found in at least 48 states, and likely the other two – information from West Virginia and Alaska was not analyzed.
How do you find, treat, avoid the new ‘super lice’?
In case you are not familiar with the little blood suckers, here’s a quick look at lice, the symptoms of an infestation, and tips on avoiding them.
What are lice?
Lice are parasitic insects that survive by feeding on human blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Close person-to-person contact is the way infestation spreads.
What am I looking for when I check my child for lice?
What most people see when they are looking for lice are nits. Nits are lice eggs laid at the base of the hair shaft. According to the CDC: “Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft and are oval-shaped and very small (about the size of a knot in thread) and hard to see. Nits often appear yellow or white although live nits sometimes appear to be the same color as the hair of the infested person. Nits are often confused with dandruff, scabs, or hair spray droplets. Head lice nits usually take about 8–9 days to hatch … .’
According to the CDC fact sheet on lice, the symptoms of head lice include:
• Itching (‘pruritus’) caused by an allergic reaction to louse bites. It may take 4–6 weeks for itching to appear the first time a person has head lice.
• A tickling feeling or a sensation of something moving in the hair
• Irritability and sleeplessness
• Sores on the head caused by scratching
• Lymph nodes behind the ears and in the neck may become tender and swollen
Advice for parents
From the CDC fact sheet:
• Examine your child’s head, especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck, for crawling lice and nits if your child exhibits symptoms of a head lice infestation.
• If crawling lice or nits are found, all household members should be examined for crawling lice and nits every 2–3 days. People with live (crawling) lice or nits within ¼ inch or less of the scalp should be treated.
• To eliminate head lice successfully, it is very important that all treatment instructions and steps be carefully followed and completed. Both over-the-counter and prescription products are available.
• Children diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice.
How do kids get lice?
Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Head-to-head contact with an already infested person is the most common way to get head lice, the CDC says. Examples include contact during sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp. The CDC says that while it is uncommon to get head lice from sharing clothing and hair brushes and other accessories, it can happen.
Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the spread of head lice. Lice cannot hop or fly, they crawl.
What do you do if your child has lice?
First, don’t panic. It’s common among children. You can find over-the-counter treatment at any drugstore. You can get a prescription from your doctor if you find that the over-the-counter treatment is not work.
Follow the directions carefully, and remember, there are two treatments that must be done.
In the meantime, you need to vacuum your house, especially where hair may have fallen, and wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water then put them in a hot dryer for a cycle.