In-Store Lice Treatments Won't Kill Super Lice

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School has been back in session for a while, and now that’s it’s getting colder outside our kiddos are sporting hats and coats with hoods. These items not only get left on the playground or gym, they tossed into the lost and found bin, and can be found on hooks touching each other each and every day.

I hate to break it to you, but this is a recipe for lice to spread like wildfire throughout the classroom. No one is safe. And if you were under the impression only people with poor hygiene contracted those bugs who like to bite your scalp, you are wrong. Simply put, lice are not biased.

A few years ago my daughter’s head was itching really bad. I looked at it closely and saw a few bites on her neck, thinking she either had dry skin since the heat was blasting every night, or maybe a spider had bitten her.

I didn’t see any bugs or nits, but I definitely wasn’t looking close enough. In fact, I didn’t really know what I was looking for since I had zero experience with lice. Nits are really hard to see, especially in her hair which was light brown. They are about the size of a knot in a piece of thread and are are yellowish or gray in color.

So, when her itching continued the next day and the next, I looked again and found a bug crawling in her hair.

Within seconds I got a text from fellow mom who my daughter had a recent slumber party with, warning me her daughter had lice too.

Oh shit.

I rushed to the store and treated her hair (and my hair, and her brothers’ hair too) after reading the instructions to an over-the-counter treatment carefully. Then, I spent about an hour combing out any nits I could find — these suckers are not only hard to find, but hard to remove. A good rule of thumb: If the little white speck you see moves when you touch it, it’s most likely not a nit. Nits are sticky and will cling to the hair shaft, about a 1/4 of an inch from the scalp.

Then, a week later per the packages instructions, I treated her again.

I figured we were in the clear but she kept scratching away. After seeing more nits, I repeated the cycle with the lice shampoo thinking I hadn’t been careful enough the first two times.

Her scratching didn’t stop. The problem? Super lice — something I didn’t even know existed. All I knew was I’d been treating my daughter every week for over a month and the damn things wouldn’t go away.

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I wasn’t the only one consumed with putting all my energy into killing these tiny bugs. In 2016, a study found lice were becoming resistant to treatments in 48 states. Yikes. Also, please pass the wine.

Are you itching yet? I bet you are. I’m literally curling my toes at the thought of what we went through a few years ago, but I’m here to educate you through my bad experience. So, grab a back scratcher to scratch all your body parts and listen up.

The Mayo Clinic reports head lice is becoming “more resistant to the active ingredients in many common head lice treatments,” which is where they got their name “super lice.” The Mayo Clinic recommends if you or someone in your family has a lice outbreak, unless there have been reports of super lice in your community, you should first treat with “medications containing one percent permethrin or pyrethrins.” This is the amount found in over-the-counter treatments.

Make sure you are also using them correctly. Following instructions perfectly, and reapplying within 7-10 days of first treatment (depending upon medicine instructions) is crucial.

You also have to pick the nits out every few days. It’s not fun, but they need to be unattached from the hair in order to be killed. This is where a lot of people get frustrated — you have to get out every single nit, as the store remedies only kill the bug. The nits can take 7-10 days to hatch and then it takes another 7-10 days for the louse to mature and lay their own eggs, which will just end in another infestation if they aren’t taken care of.

If you’re sure you’ve followed instructions closely with no luck, there’s a good chance it’s super lice (you have my condolences).

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I have good news, though: there is another option to get rid of the nasty biters. In-office heat treatments, like AirAllé or Lice Clinics of America, will get rid of lice and nits. While they are more expensive than over the counter treatments, they work and don’t have toxic ingredients. These treatments use high heat to get rid of the nits.

American Academy Of Pediatrics used six different heat methods on 169 lice-infested heads and reported, “All six methods resulted in high egg mortality (≥88%), but they showed more-variable success in killing hatched lice. The most successful method, which used a custom-built machine called the LouseBuster, resulted in nearly 100% mortality of eggs and 80% mortality of hatched lice. The LouseBuster was effective in killing lice and their eggs when operated at a comfortable temperature, slightly cooler than a standard blow-dryer. Virtually all subjects were cured of head lice when examined 1 week after treatment with the LouseBuster.”

Throwing all hats, coats, scarves, bedding in the dryer is an easy, effective way to kill the bugs too and all it takes is about 5 minutes (although I’d do at least 10) of temperatures greater than 128.3 to make those suckers die already so you can get on with your life.

Yes, lice is a huge pain in the ass and no one wants to deal with it. However, it’s super common in school-aged children, and it’s better to be informed and know what you can do if the damn things aren’t dying after you’ve put a few treatments on your child’s head and they aren’t working.

It may be worth it to shell out the money for the in-office heat treatments to ensure they will be gone instead of applying treatment and combing out nits, then keeping your fingers crossed that they buggers don’t return.

Believe me, if we ever have a case of lice in our house again we will be doing that — because I’m not messing around with this crap again.

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