What are kids bringing home from school besides their homework? Lice! The good news is: lice are obligate parasites and don’t jump, or fly…they are transmitted by direct contact. But, the smart louse has found another way to drive parents crazy…they are becoming more and more resistant to all of the over the counter products containing permethrin.
A recent study has shown that 25 states now have a big problem with lice and permethrin resistance. It seems that the lice are smart and they have developed “genetic mutations” which has made them drug resistant. Texas has had a problem for several years and I have had many patients coming into the office with bags full of “stuff” that they have used to treat their children’s head lice to no avail!!! Many a mother has told me she is ready to try anything…including some things that might be considered unsafe, but you know a desperate mother.
While about 12 million children a year get head lice, the louse itself does not cause any disease, but just uncomfortable itching. Parents spend multi millions of dollars each year trying to eradicate head lice. In states like Texas, California, Florida and Virginia the lice are immune to over the counter products, while in New York, New Jersey and several other states they are partially resistant.
But don’t despair, despite the resistance to the over the counter products such as Nix, there are other prescription products available. Products such as benzoyl alcohol (Ulesfia), ivermectin (Sklice), malathion (Ovide), and spinosad (Natroba), may all be used to treat a case of head lice, but will require a prescription to obtain them. Although prescription drugs typically are more expensive, treating head lice with an over the counter product may be an exercise in futility. It is likely to be more cost and time effective to start with a prescription product if you live in one of the 25 states which has shown drug resistance.
So, if you get a note that your child has head lice, pick up the phone and call your doctor’s office to see what advice they give you.