GREENVILLE — According to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, it was found that head lice in the United States are developing a resistance to chemicals found in most anti-lice shampoos.
“The lice known as ‘super lice’ are said to have developed genetic mutations that make them resistant to many of the over the counter and prescription chemicals that are used to kill lice,” said Jennifer Barga, Darke County Health Department director of nursing.
According to the report, the super lice variation is now present in 97.1 percent of Canadian and 99.6 percent of United States lice cases. The mutation is making lice immune to pyrethrins and pyrethroids, insecticides that have been used for several years to kill lice.
“The ongoing use of lice treatments over the years has made head lice resistant to some treatments,” Barga said.
Because head lice is not considered a communicable disease, the Darke County Health Department does not keep track of head lice cases.
“They do not spread disease,” Barga said. “They are just incredibly annoying. A common misconception about head lice is that it’s a result of bad hygiene. That is not true. Lice are human parasites that require human blood to survive and are transferred from head to head. The lice eggs are not contagious but it’s the active adult lice that spreads. Once the eggs are laid they have seven to 10 days until they hatch. If they’re not removed before they hatch, baby lice, or nymphs, become adult lice within one to two weeks and leave the eggshell behind. The eggs are clear or white and, unlike dandruff, you wont’ be able to easily pull it off the hair shaft.”
The report also states that alternative approaches to treatment of head lice infestations are critically needed.
“To treat the individual with the lice, pick the nits, or eggs, out,” Barga said. “Sit in the sunlight and remove them by hand. This takes a lot of time and being thorough, but it works. Also when treating the individual, typical products such as Nix and RID still work on some people, some of the time. But there are also newer products that doctors can prescribe such as Sklice, Natroba or Ulesfia, which contains some different chemicals that have proven to be effective at killing the pyrethroid-resistant lice.”
Barga also recommends to clean thoroughly when dealing with lice.
“It helps to sweep carpets, couches and car seats,” she said. “Extreme temperatures kill lice so throw pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and hats need to be placed in the dryer for 30 minutes on high heat. Wash and boil hairbrushes, combs and hair clips and put things that cannot take the heat in a bag and leave them in the freezer for several hours if possible.”
Barga said, to help prevent their children from getting lice, parents will want to inspect their child’s head for nits.
“The best way to check for lice is combing through the child’s hair,” she said. “Get in the habit of performing a weekly head check, making prevention part of your regular routine and simply talk to your kids about not sharing things like hats, brushes and combs, hair ties, pillows and sleeping bags.”