"Super lice" were first reported in the United States in 2000 by Kyong Yoon, Ph.D. In 2015, Yoon found they had spread to 25 states.
"If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance," Yoon told the American Chemical Society. "So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don't carry disease. They're more a nuisance than anything else."
While exact numbers are hard to peg down, an estimated 6-12 million lice infestations occur each year in the United States among children ages 3-11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lice is spread by close contact with the hair of a person who already has lice and since head-to-head contact can be common during activities like playdates, slumber parties and sports, children are often susceptible to infestation.
Prescription medications are available to treat super lice. Comb-out treatments, where specialists comb and pick out the lice by hand, can be another option, although they can cost hundreds of dollars.
If a case of lice is found in your household, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Having household members checked
- Washing pillow cases and bedding
- Cleaning hair care items
- Vacuuming furniture, carpeting, car seats, and other fabrics