What you need to know about the 'super lice' outbreak that's hit 25 states incl. Kansas and Missouri

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - It's a diagnosis that can send shivers down just about anyone's spine: head lice.

The Internet is crawling with at-home recipes and over-the-counter concoctions. But the truth is, few of these treatments will ever kill, much less cure, a lice infestation. 

That's truer now than ever before because half the nation, including Kansas and Missouri, report they have a mutated version of the bug - called super lice - that is resistant to over-the-counter drugs. 

 

The states in pink report having medicine-resistant mutated lice, also called super lice.

 

Pyrethroids, the active ingredient in over-the-counter medicines, used to work 100 percent of the time two decades ago. Nowadays, it only works in about 25 percent of the cases. 

Enter the latest and greatest lice zapper. It's called AirAlle. The machine works by dehydrating the critters and their nits, or eggs. Right now only one shop - Heartland Healthy Heads in Olathe, Kansas - offers this treatment.

READ: What does the CDC say about lice?

"No matter how long you comb, you can still miss a nit," explained Cherie Parker, the nurse practitioner who owns Heartland Healthy Heads. "This just increases the effectiveness by making sure it's dehydrated."

Dehydrated equals dead, no matter what part of the life cycle the lice are in.

Top lice lies -- DEBUNKED

  1. People who have lice are unhygienic.
    DEBUNKED - Lice are parasites that will infest anyone's head, whether the hair is clean or dirty. The critters also don't discriminate against race, age or gender; if you have hair, they like you.
     
  2. Lice fly or jump from victim to victim.
    DEBUNKED - Lice are incapable of flying or jumping. That said, they can spread with head to head contact, or if you use the brush, headband or hat of an infected person.
     
  3. Lice will infest your home, so you must clean everything to get rid of them.
    DEBUNKED - Lice cannot live without a blood supply for more than 24 hours. For that reason, you should not need to invest in expensive house cleaners or spend hours cleaning. Still, some household work is necessary, like vacuuming floors, washing bedding in hot water and tossing stuffed animals and pillows in the dryer on high heat for half an hour. 
     
  4. Only kids get lice.
    DEBUNKED - Anyone with hair can get lice, regardless of age. The reason kids are more likely to get lice is because they often play, live and even sleep in close proximity to one another. 

 

Heartland Healthy Heads reported one of the best ways to battle the bugs is with prevention. Parker offers free, on-site information sessions at schools, daycare centers and doctors offices about how to prevent and treat lice outbreaks. 

 

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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com.

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