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42 States Now Have Super Lice

Photograph by Twenty20

This is enough to make you want to keep your little one’s hair short—very short. A new report published in the Journal of Entomology reveals that head lice in at least 42 states are resistant to typical over-the-counter treatments. (Itchy yet?) In 2015, only 25 states had the treatment-resistant "super lice."

Yes, the notorious bugs have evolved. Now, thanks to a genetic mutation, your kids’ head lice will be tougher to kill with pyrethroids and pyrethrins, the active ingredients in popular drugstore fixes like Nix and Rid.

So does this mean there’s no defense against so-called “super” lice? Fortunately, no.

"This mutation makes them somewhat insensitive. But in most cases pyrethrins and pyrethroids can still kill lice with the mutation, if you apply way more of the compound," study co-author Kyong Sup Yoon told the Today website.

Dr. Robin Gehris, chief of pediatric dermatology at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, agrees, advising parents to first try a double dose of an OTC product.

"Treat the entire head and leave it on for a few hours and then repeat a week later," she told Today. "If you still see things moving after the second treatment, it's time to call the doctor." Your pediatrician can provide a prescription-strength solution to rid you of the creepy crawlers.

Gehris also warns against home remedies, which she says don’t work. "Olive oil, mayonnaise, Vaseline: these are all treatments I wouldn't recommend," she said. "But I hear school nurses recommending them all the time."

As for prevention, remind your little ones not to share hats and brushes with friends and try keeping long hair pulled back into a braid or a bun. While these things won’t completely eliminate the risk, they can give you a little more peace of mind.

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