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SALT LAKE CITY — The majority of head lice found in Utah, and 47 other states in the country, have developed a resistance to certain pesticides found in popular treatments for the pesky insects, according to Claire Roberts, CEO of Lice Clinics of America.
“Eighty percent of over-the-counter products sold in the U.S. contain pesticides that the lice have evolved resistance to,” she said. “Of the remaining 20 percent of the products that don’t contain those pesticides, there is scant published research on the safety and efficacy of those products, so it is hard to say how effective they are at killing the lice. What we do know is even if they do a good job of killing the lice, they don’t kill the eggs, so treatment failures are common.”
Roberts shared multiple solutions for getting rid of “super lice.”
If a parent receives a note from their child’s school indicating a lice problem, Roberts suggested going to a lice clinic and being checked by a professional.
She said if patients do have lice, their clinic gives their patients options depending on what they can afford.
“We have the cure,” she said. “We have an FDA-cleared medical device. It was actually developed here in the University of Utah here in Salt Lake, but it uses heated air and very quickly one of our operators just uses this, it takes about 30 minutes on the head and then we comb out any of the debris ... and it’s guaranteed. So if you can afford it and there’s a clinic nearby, we recommend using this heated air treatment.”
The heated air treatment, called AirAllé, doesn’t use any pesticides or chemicals, and it takes care of the problem. The AirAlle dehydrates the lice and the eggs, she said.
The AirAlle is sold in a home-kit version for $150. The in-clinic treatment ranges from $150 to $170 per person, Roberts said.
The clinic also sells a non-toxic, easy-to-use, kit for under $30. This is a topical product that kills super lice in less than 10 minutes, Roberts said. This product kills the hatched super lice, but not the eggs.
Roberts said it is a myth that if someone has lice, they are not clean and that lice affects those who are economically disadvantaged.
“That is the worst and the saddest myth that still exists,” she said. “And I think that’s what leads to people being so embarrassed and feeling ashamed. Very few of us feel ashamed and embarrassed when we catch a cold, so catching head lice should be in the same genre. You got too close to someone that had something, and that’s what happened. But that’s the biggest myth that I would like to dispel.”
Another myth Roberts mentioned is that people catch head lice at school. There’s not a lot of head to head contact going on at school, and that’s typically not where people catch it, she said.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular head lice can be treated with prescription medications and over-the-counter medications.
The organization warned against treating a person with lice more than two to three times with the same medication if it doesn't appear to be working.
"This may be caused by using the medicine incorrectly or by resistance to the medicine. Always seek the advice of your health care provider if this should happen. He/she may recommend an alternative medication," according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information about treating head lice, visit the CDC website. The CDC did not specify treatments for super lice.