Back to school season is upon us, which means it’s time for new school supplies, first day of school pictures, and that dreaded four-letter word: lice. But this year, it’s not just exposure to regular lice that parents have to worry about: There’s now a treatment resistant “super lice” that’s spreading across the United States.
A whopping 42 out of 48 states tested are overrun by this so-called super lice, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. In these 42 states, according to NBC’s Today show, 100 percent of the lice tested were resistant to over-the-counter treatments.
In six other states - New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico, and North Dakota - some, but not all, the lice tested were resistant to over-the-counter treatments.
Alaska and West Virginia were not part of the study.
The problem, according to the Today show, is that lice have mutated, making it more difficult for the chemicals in over-the-counter treatments to lock on to the lice and eliminate it.
Last August, a study made waves when it found that at least 25 states had developed treatment resistant lice. Kyong Sup Yoon, Ph.D., who worked on that study and this latest one, suggests that the only way to effectively treat these lice are with different chemicals, ones that are typically available through a prescription.
“If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance,” Yoon said last year. “So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don’t carry disease. They’re more a nuisance than anything else.”
Dr. Robin Gehris, the chief of pediatric dermatology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg, told Today that if your child has head lice, it is more likely resistance lice than not. Gheris recommends that parents try to get rid of the infection by using over-the-counter treatment twice.
“Treat the entire head and leave it on for a few hours and then repeat a week later,” she told Today. “If you still see things moving after the second treatment it’s time to call the doctor.”
There are countless home remedies to treat lice, including putting mayonnaise, olive oil, and lotion on the scalp, but Dr. Gehris cannot guarantee their effectiveness.
To parents gearing up to send their kids back to school, keep the suggested plan of action in mind: use over the counter treatment twice, and if the problem persists, pay a visit to your doctor for a prescription treatment.