Head Lice Are Getting Hardier. Here Are Ways to Squelch and Prevent Them.
Although research shows that head lice are becoming increasingly resistant to established treatments, there are still ways to conquer these critters. Better yet, learn to take actions that can help your kids avoid catching lice in the first place.
Drug-Resistant Head Lice
Recent research shows that head lice in 25 states have developed resistance to pyrethroids, the most commonly used class of over-the-counter insecticide treatments, according to Healthline. Head lice have evolved quickly with new gene mutations that make it easier for them to survive a chemical onslaught. This means that infestations often last longer, enabling them to spread further. As a result, there has been an increase in head lice cases throughout the United States since the late 1990s.
A study of head lice in 30 states shows that lice in 25 states have developed three gene mutations that greatly decrease their susceptibility to pyrethroid treatments. Lice in four other states had developed between one and three of the mutations, while lice in only one state, Michigan, did not have the mutations.
Research is ongoing to develop new treatments, with three new treatments available by prescription. In the meantime, there are still ways to effectively eliminate head lice with home treatments.
Treating Head Lice At Home
Although many head lice are resistant to over-the-counter pyrethroid treatments, they are not completely immune to its effects. The active ingredient in these products is usually pyrethrin or permethrin, according to Upworthy. Using higher doses of these products, under the supervision of a health care professional, can effectively treat head lice. In the long term, however, using larger amounts of these chemicals only increases the lice’s resistance to treatment.
Natural methods for eliminating lice include manually removing them and using certain essential oils. To manually remove lice, first coat either the hair or a comb with almond oil or olive oil. The oil slows down the lice and makes it easier to remove them, and it may also suffocate them. Use a fine-toothed lice comb and run it through small sections of the hair. Rinse the comb frequently.
Among the most effective essential oils for head lice are tea tree oil, lavender oil and neem oil, reports Healthline. Combine between 15 and 20 drops of the essential oil with 2 ounces of olive oil or 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol, then apply it to the scalp. Keep the mixture on the hair for at least 12 hours, then comb the hair and wash it twice. The mixture of essential oil and rubbing alcohol may also be helpful as a preventive treatment.
Another option is to hire a professional head lice treatment service. These services sometimes also provide training to parents for home treatment. There are also prescription medications to treat head lice; contact your health care provider to learn more about these treatments.
Preventing Head Lice
Lice don’t fly or jump, and most often require physical contact or very close proximity to another person in order to spread. They can also hide in clothing or other items that touch the hair. Young children are more prone to get lice since they spend a lot of time playing together and naturally have a lot of physical contact.
Encourage children not to share items that could contain lice, such as hats, scarves, helmets and towels. Also encourage them to properly store these items at school or day care by putting them in lockers or cubbies instead of leaving them out on furniture or in other shared spaces.
If your child’s school reports any cases of head lice, begin regular inspections of your child’s hair and belongings to search for lice and eggs. Although some companies market products for prevention of head lice, there is not sufficient research to prove that these products are effective or safe.
While head lice are a nuisance that can be difficult to eliminate, they don’t pose significant health issues for otherwise healthy people. Lice do not result from poor hygiene, and they do not spread any type of disease. Share this article with your friends and family to help prevent the spread of these annoying critters.