Super Lice Affecting Families in Illinois and Missouri

A louse with a cape photoshopped on top.

No parent likes to think about the possibility of their child getting lice. Even the mention of the name may make your scalp itch. Unfortunately, this pest is a reality for thousands of students each year and, with a new school year starting, there is a disturbing term that parents should be aware of.

Mutant Super Lice.

We wish we could say we made that up, but we didn’t.

For the last several years, warnings have been circulating that lice have been building a tolerance to modern insecticide cures- or pyrethroids. Much like so-called “Super Bugs” can build a tolerance to antibiotics, these Super Lice do not respond to most common treatments. A study published in August of 2016 found that lice from 42 of 48 states (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) had three “knockdown mutations,” which means they are resistant to treatment.

In most states, 100% of the lice samples were found to be resistant to typical treatments. 

Lice map

Experts are saying that the common pyrethroids that you find in the pharmacy can now only kill 25 percent of a typical lice infestation. So, what can parents do if lice find their way into a household?

  • Use an over-the-counter treatment TWICE. Treat the entire head, using a specialized comb to remove all bugs and nits (eggs). Repeat the treatment one week later.
  • Vacuum the house, car, and furniture
  • Wash all bedding and clothing in hot water and put in the dryer for at least 30 minutes
  • Items that cannot be put in the dryer or vacuumed should be sealed in garbage bags for two days
  • Consider trying a home remedy in conjunction with the over-the-counter treatment. Mayonnaise, olive oil, coconut oil, or lotion on the scalp, while not necessarily determined to be effective, are harmless potential treatments. If you would like information on natural remedies to try in between chemical treatments, this article has some great options. 
  • If the problem persists, visit a doctor for a prescription treatment.
  • Families may consider lice-removal services. There are several across Illinois and Missouri that are experienced in dealing with Super Lice outbreaks.
  • Teach children lice prevention by instructing them not to share brushes, hats, or hair accessories
  • Consider keeping long hair tied back whenever possible- especially at school

Other things to know:

  • Lice do not jump, hop, or fly, but can crawl quite quickly. They move between people by crawling onto hair.
  • Lice are about the size of a sesame seed and are usually found close to the scalp, behind the ears, and at the base of the neck.
  • Lice can live for up to 30 days on a person’s head, but die within 24 to 48 hours away from their blood supply (the scalp). However, they will procreate if left untreated, causing the problem to last much longer.