With proper over-the-counter treatment, head lice can be treated.
Super lice are a strain of these parasites that are becoming more resistant to conventional treatment. A 2016 study found that resistant lice have spread to 48 states. While common lice infestations can be treated with permethrin and pyrethrin (insecticide treatments), these products have proven to be less effective with super lice.
Super lice do not look any different from normal lice. They’re identified by their resistance to common treatment.
There are a few reasons why lice treatments have not worked in addition to drug resistance:
Super lice symptoms do not differ from normal lice infestations. Common symptoms of a lice infestation include itching on the scalp and the presence of lice and eggs (nits) in your hair.
Other symptoms associated with this condition include:
- itching on the ears and neck
- tickling sensation from lice movement in your hair
- presence of lice or nit eggs on your clothes
- red bumps on your scalp, neck, or shoulders
In more severe cases, intense itching from lice can cause you to break your skin by scratching it. This can increase your risk of infection and vulnerability to other diseases. Your hair may also fall out from a long-term lice infestation.
Lice are spread through direct contact with people or things already affected. A lice infestation is not a reflection of poor hygiene, particularly since they’re attracted to clean hair.
Lice have a short life-span off of the body. They can’t fly or walk, but they do crawl. An infestation is contagious and can spread through other ways outside of person-to-person contact, including:
- contact with infested furniture
- sexual contact
- shared items such as hair brushes, pillowcases, hats, and toys
- proximity of stored belongings in infested areas
Traditional treatment for lice involves products containing pyrethrin and permethrin insecticides. Since super lice have become more resistant, doctors recommend stronger medications.
Common drugs prescribed to treat resistant lice infestations include:
Another method used to kill super lice is through hot air treatment. Within this procedure, experts use a device similar to a hair dryer to dry out lice and nit eggs. Lice cannot survive in dry, hot environments. The hot air treatment blows controlled, heated air onto the scalp to dehydrate lice. The procedure takes about 90 minutes.
For prescribed medication, only use the recommended dosage. If your treatment does not seem to be working after 8 to 12 hours, you may need a stronger prescription. Discuss your options with your doctor.
Children are most susceptible to spreading lice, specifically children in preschool through middle school. In these cases, it can be difficult to prevent spreading lice. Parents should teach their children about lice, including why it’s important not to share hats or hair accessories.
If you have lice, consider having your household examined for lice. Other recommendations to prevent spreading include:
- avoid sharing hats, clothes and accessories
- soak brushes and combs in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes after use
- dry clean coats, toys, and other objects that may have touched your head
- wash bed sheets and covers in hot water and dry in high heat for at least 20 minutes
Super lice share some of the same qualities with regular lice. However, they have proven to be more resistant to traditional treatments. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor to eliminate lice and prevent spreading it to your family and friends.