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“The Stir” Reports Super-Strain of Resistant Head Lice is Spreading, but Don’t Panic

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Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of moms quite like the threat of these creepy-crawly creatures. Just in time for back-to-school season, a super strain of resistant head lice is making its way into the scalps of kids in the majority of states across the country. But before you start scratching uncontrollably, there’s a bit of good news.

 While these insidious pests have become impervious to pyrethroids and pyrethrins — the active ingredients in popular over-the-counter remedies (talk about survival of the grossest!) — new prescription treatments are reportedly more effective than ever.

This news comes just in time as 100 percent of lice tested in 42 out of 48 states had evolved to the point that treating them with those familiar remedies was far less effective in killing them.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FIDSA, FACP, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh, explains what’s going on and what parents can do to fight these critters.

“Over-the-counter treatments for head lice are based on pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids, compounds to which there has been increasing rates of resistance,” Adalja notes. “Prescription therapies, based on alternative compounds, are more effective in the face of this type of resistance.”

But what if you’re a parent who doesn’t want to put chemicals on your child’s head to solve the problem? If you fall into that category, it’s good to know that places like Lice Knowing You, a lice removal service with eight clinics in four states, exist. Nancy Gordon, chief executive officer of the company, says while these resistant lice are getting a lot of attention lately, they’ve been around for at least a decade. Even in light of that, Gordon still advocates for a more natural treatment.

“Consumers should arm themselves with the professional lice comb and focus on the removal of every louse and nit,” she explains. “Once your lice problem is cured, focus on checking your kids once a week going forward. Our motto at Lice Knowing You is ‘once a week sneak a peek.’ If you’re checking your kids regularly, if they happen to catch a bug you can just remove it immediately. Lice are spread through head-to-head contact. It takes seven to 10 days for the eggs to hatch and nine to 12 days for the baby bags to turn into full adults capable of laying eggs. Trust me, if there was a magical way to get rid of head lice we’d all be jumping on the bandwagon.”

While there’s nothing fun about dealing with a lice problem, it’s good to know there are solutions out there and that vigilance is perhaps your best offense.

Article by Liz Alterman, The Stir
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