‘Super lice’ leave parents scratching their heads - Stubborn parasites outsmart drugs and mortify moms

Author: Rosie

In: Back to School, Head Lice, Parent Tips, Pediculosis

As school begins, health officials and parents are bracing for this year’s bout of what some call “super lice,” drug-resistant critters that fend off nearly all pesticides, even as experts say better treatments for the ancient, annoying condition may be waiting in the wings. 

Infestations of head lice — or pediculosis — long have been common in day care centers and elementary schools, mostly because the close contact among young children is suited to spreading the tiny insects, about the size of a sesame seed, that crawl from head to head and latch onto hair follicles so they can feed on tiny droplets of blood.

How do head lice spread? They move by crawling; they don’t hop or fly. They’re most easily spread by direct contact with infested hair, often through sharing hats or combs, or by children playing closely together. 

Where are they found? Adult lice and their eggs, called nits, are found on the scalp, particularly around and behind the ears and the nape of the neck. Parents are encouraged to conduct regular checks of their children, searching there first for signs of irritation. Nits cement themselves firmly to the base of a hair shaft.

What are signs of head lice infestation? Itching and tickling on the head, particularly at night. Sores on the head caused by scratching.
How do I treat head lice? The most common treatments for head lice are over-the-counter and prescription shampoos and creme rinses that include pesticides. Increasingly however, lice in the U.S. and around the world have become resistant to the drugs. Follow the directions on the package for applying the medication, called a pediculicide. If no dead lice are found eight to 12 hours after treatment and existing lice remain lively, the medication may not work. A health professional may be able to provide a different medication that may kill the bugs. Comb nits from the hair with a fine-toothed comb.
How many times do I have to treat? Retreatment is recommended after 9 to 10 days in order to kill any surviving lice before they produce new eggs, except when using malathion. Consult package directions or a doctor when using that product.
What if it doesn’t work? Consult a doctor to talk about options. Some methods that don’t rely on pesticides may be available and effective.
What else should I do? Machine wash bed linens and other items used by the infested person in very hot water, at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry in a hot dryer.  Soak combs and brushes in very hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Vacuum floors and furniture.
What shouldn’t I do? Don’t feel ashamed. Head lice affect people in every economic and social category. Don’t feel compelled to use extensive, expensive housecleaning methods, like steam-cleaning carpets. Don’t take drastic action, like shaving a child’s head. Source
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