Head Lice: The Latest Superbug to Become Resistant to Pesticides

Head Lice on Head Photo

Image source: Westchester.gov

While drug companies continue to say its not happening, school nurses around the country are saying more and more parents are at a loss for solutions, reports MSNBC. One nurse even reported a parent, whose child has been battling head lice all summer, was extremely frustrated and unsure what to do next. So why are common medications like Nix, Rid, Ovide and Kwell still prescribed? Simply because they do work on some cases, some of the time.

In response to these superbugs, new salons are popping up all over the US that solely de-louse hair, like Hair Fairies in Chicago. Salons catering to head lice victims first rinse the hair to remove eggs, and then get to work nitting the hair one strand at the time. Kids can play video games, watch tv, read, anything to relax them during the procedure, reports ABC News. Though the procedures can be costly and usually take several visits, though some patients can partially cover the treatment through insurance.For the children whose head lice are resistant to pesticides, at this time, all they can hope for are stronger medicines, new gels that will coat the head and smother the lice or "hot air treatments that desiccate [the lice]." One gel awaiting FDA approval would kill the bugs in 30 minutes by blocking their air holes -called the "Lice Asphyxiator." It takes roughly three to five years for head lice to build immunity to the pesticide, says Florida Atlantic University associate professor Shirley Gordon, at which point you have to look for something else.

Most headlice can live for a month on your head, but they need to "eat" blood at least two to three times a day. There are estimates that roughly 1.8 percent of US schoolchildren are affected with head lice each year. In Turkey the problem is much worse with roughly 30% of children infected and as high as 60% in Greece. Though these numbers are very rough estimates due to the stigma of having head lice which forces both over and under reporting.

Head lice don't spread disease and they are not deadly. They are most common among school children because the lice walk - can't hop or fly - and are thus easily transmitted among kids during close contact. Schools are now easing up on restrictions keeping kids out of class because many were spending months at home waiting and thus losing valuable learning time.

Pesticide-Free Remedies

Other options that don't involve pesticides include a pending hot air method, which is basically a high-volume air dryer to kill the bugs. Some nurses suggest slathering mayonnaise or olive oil over a kids head. As well as the painstaking "nitting" where you go strand by strand with a fine-toothed comb and pull the sesame-seed sized bugs out of the hair one by one and squash them.

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