Almost All Lice Now Resistant to Over the Counter Treatment

lice treatment

If you thought that lice were bad enough before, you’re definitely going to be seeing them as an even bigger nuisances in the future.  No, they haven’t become more rampant, they’ve just become largely resistant to the typical over the counter lice treatment products used to eradicate them.  You may have heard about this issue on the news, but, either way, we’re going to delve into the factors surrounding this situation, what this means for parents of young children, and what we can expect to see in the future concerning the treatment of lice.

The Lice Treatment Agenda

Due to their new resistance, strains of lice are now being termed as super lice or super strains.  Before you panic, though: While lice have indeed adapted to the effects of particular chemical insecticides, they haven’t really changed in any other ways.  Head lice are super annoying, for sure, but they’re relatively harmless.  The biggest health problem you could expect from lice would be inflammation and possible infection due to excessive scratching, but these situations are rare.  Head lice don’t carry diseases, after all, and these newly adapted strains of lice haven’t changed in this regard.

So, what has changed?  For starters, the chemical treatments haven’t, and this is the big problem.  For years lice have been treated using the same family of chemical insecticides: pyrethroids.  The type of pyrethroid commonly used in over the counter lice treatments is permethrin. These chemicals have been so popular for the treatment of lice because they’re relatively gentle on people and they traditionally get the job done. 

The issue is that no other types of chemicals have been commonly used for the treatment of lice, causing strains to genetically mutate and become resistant to the effects of the insecticides.

Super strains of genetically adapted lice are now found in virtually all states, apart from Alaska and West Virginia where testing wasn’t done as part of the recent national study on the problem.  While the whole thing does sound a bit scary, it’s important to understand that lice aren’t an actual threat to anyone’s well-being – they’re simply annoyances.

lice treatment

What Do We Do Now?

Just because super strains may be present in your state, this doesn’t mean that if you or someone in your household gets lice that the strain you’re dealing with is in fact a super strain.  The best course of action that you can take is to attempt treatment with over the counter products that you can find at a local retailer or pharmacy, or even online from companies that specifically manufacture lice treatment products

You want to at least attempt this step, because, otherwise, you’re going to have to go straight to prescription treatments, and these involve chemicals that aren’t as mild as over the counter options.

Most lice treatment kits will come with nit combs that you can use to comb out lice and the nits – egg sacs – stuck to the hair shafts.  If one doesn’t come with your lice treatment shampoo, then you need to buy one, because no matter what strain of lice you’re dealing with or the kind of product you’re using to treat it, combing is essential.  If the lice shampoo isn’t quite as effective, at least with combing you have an increased chance of getting rid of all of the lice and their nits.

lice wash

Be sure to follow the directions offered with your lice treatment product very carefully, as you don’t want to overuse anything and expose yourself to more chemicals than are recommended by the manufacturer. 

You also want to be sure that you don’t underuse the product, either, as this is another factor in why lice have built up tolerance to over the counter products.  If you’ve used the treatment as directed, and you’ve been combing with a nit comb but you’re still finding live lice, then it’s probably time to go see a doctor.  Your doctor will walk you through the different prescriptions available, but be sure to stay away from the harsher ones on the market. 

It may be, however, that unless a variety of chemicals start being used for over the counter products, we’re most likely going to see more and more people having to turn to prescription options.

If you have young children, then be prepared for a bit of patience, both with them and their schools.  More schools are dropping the older policies surrounding lice, but some schools still require children to miss school days until they’re lice free.  Since lice can only be spread through direct contact and don’t pose a health risk, this outdated practice is more harmful than helpful.  Also, make sure to talk to your children about lice so that they understand it’s not a negative thing if someone gets them, as it’s important to make sure that children don’t tease one another for having them.