Drug Resistant Head Lice: Here's Something Else To Worry About!

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The good news: Drug resistant head lice will not eat your brain!

The bad news: Drug resistant head lice might actually be a thing!

An item posted today on the Greening the Apple, the Environmental Protection Agency's New York City blog, suggests that these nasty bugs have gotten better at doing battle with human treatments over the years.

A reader, you see, wrote in desperately seeking advice as over-the-counter head lice treatment -- including an electronic comb -- hadn't helped her second-grade daughter, who has been suffering with a case of lice for more than three months.

The girl's pediatrician suggested harsher, prescription-only products containing commercial pesticides such as Malathion and Lindane -- which have been banned in many contexts and are not considered safe for super-young kids.

In that blog entry, bug management expert Marcia Anderson gives some insight into what's going on.

"Today's lice are tougher and their exoskeletons are thicker than they used to be 20 years ago," she writes.

"I conducted some internet research and found that the lice of today hatch and mature on different schedules then they used to. This complicates established treatment directions. The lice seem to have also developed some resistance to the active ingredients, permethrin and pyrethrum. And forget turning your children's heads into salad by slathering them with mayonnaise, lime garlic lotion or olive oil, as the little critters cannot be easily suffocated."

This isn't the first time potentially drug resistant lice have been mentioned in recent weeks. Remember that in late May, an Idaho school temporarily closed when 60 students and nine teachers reported having head lice.

So, yes: not only do you have to worry about carpet beetles and bed bugs, but you might also have to add head lice to the list of pests-that-can-make-your-life-suck.

Head lice, according to the CDC, are most frequently spread by close person-to-person contact. They don't transmit disease, so they're not considered a health hazard, but they do cause hardcore itching.

Other symptoms? "A tickling feeling or a sensation of something moving in the hair; irritability and sleeplessness; and sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores caused by scratching can sometimes become infected with bacteria normally found on a person's skin."

Check out this webpage for prevention tips.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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