Welp, looks like it's time to pack it in and move to space, because strains of drug-resistant super lice have now been reported in 25 states in the U.S, according to a study by the American Chemical Society.
Head lice, parasitic insects that feed on blood and can live anywhere on your head where there's hair, including scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, have been dreaded by parents and kids since before time. But now, thanks to a genetic mutation, we have "super lice."
Super lice may sound like lice wearing capes and fighting crime, but they are actually strains of the insect that have evolved to become resistant to pyrethroids, the over-the-counter insecticides commonly used to kill them. Hooray! Thanks, science!
First, should you worry? OH HELL YES, why not, you know you're going to anyway. Second, exactly how much should you worry? Well, even if you do live in one of the states where they've been reported, maybe don't completely panic just yet.
Kyong Yoon, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University—Edwardsvillle, explained that these new super lice aren't entirely immune to pyrethroids, they just require a higher dose. Also bear in mind, head lice move by crawling—they can't hop or fly. They can be spread by sharing clothing or hair accessories, like barrettes and combs, worn or used by a person with lice, but this isn't as common as direct contact. And unlike fleas, your pets cannot spread head lice.
Pediatric dermatologist Dr. Robin Gehris told Today that she believes the OTC pyrethroid treatments can still work much of the time, just maybe not quite as well.
One reason they might be less effective is that parents aren't always using the treatments exactly as directed. Treatments need to be reapplied a second time five to seven days after the first application—any eggs that may not have been killed in the initial application will hatch about a week later, starting the infestation all over again. Another problem is parents not leaving the treatments on for a long enough period of time. Gehris recommends leaving the treatment on overnight with a shower cap, no matter how much it stinks or your kid complains.
If over-the-counter treatments do fail, parents can take their kids to a pediatrician to get a prescription for a drug treatment that lice haven't yet developed a resistance to, along with maybe a sedative, just to take the edge off the whole situation. Okay, the doctor will not give you a sedative—but it can't hurt to ask, right?
And if all else fails, you can always just shave your kid's head. Even the most resistant lice can't survive having their entire habitat destroyed. Problem solved!