The NITty Gritty About “Super Lice”
Lately, it seems like no one can log into Facebook or watch the news without coming across an article about “super lice”. Everyone with even a wisp of hair is afraid of these new, seemingly unkillable invaders threatening to take over our homes and heads. But what are they really?
We get asked this almost daily, and the shortest version of the truth is: they’re the same bugs you’ve been battling for years. Sort of.
“Super lice” is a scary way of saying that they’ve simply become immune to the stuff you’re buying at the drug store because they’ve been exposed to it so many times. Kind of like needing to take a stronger dose of medicine because you’ve taken it in the past. Lice, however, are able to pass their drug resistance on to their offspring, so each generation gets a little stronger and the box of funky smelling shampoo is a little less effective.
Recently, the largest study of head lice resistance conducted to date was presented to the American Chemical Society. 95% of the samples of head lice collected overall throughout the country had this resistance, and 100% of the samples from California were resistant. This resistance, called a “KDR (knock down resistance) mutation”, was actually first recognized in the late 1990s. It was geared specifically to pyrethroid resistance, which is the group of chemicals found in most over-the-counter products such as Rid and Nix, but other chemicals which work in the same way may also have similar immunities develop. Associate Professor Shirley C Gordon, who studies persistent lice at Florida Atlantic University, has stated that such tolerances may take as few as 3-5 years to develop in a lice population. When this happens, more of the chemical must be used in order to be effective, however this can be unsafe due to the fact that pyrethroids are neurotoxins and are being applied not only to the body but specifically the head, and they can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, causing side effects.
So, what can be done to battle these stronger parasites? There are many new methods which involve heat or smothering or natural ingredients which are gaining a lot of attention, but the number one best method is always going to be the complete removal of all bugs and eggs from the hair manually (nit picking). Here at Lizzie’s Lice Pickers we use an enzyme-based spray in conjunction with this hand removal, which attacks the exoskeletons of the living insects and helps to break down the glue-like substance which bonds the eggs to the hair, making them easier to remove. After the treatment, a follow-up schedule with precise instructions is given in order to ensure absolutely that the lice are gone. After much of our own research and beta-testing, this is the most effective and least potentially harmful method of treatment that we have come across, and the only method that we endorse and use for our own families and friends.