A growing number of lice have adapted to resist common over-the-counter chemical treatments. These mutants, known as super lice, have been found in over half the states in the United States.
But no need to panic parents. Just because common chemicals don’t work, doesn’t mean they can’t be killed using other means.
Home remedies that smother lice with things like mayonnaise or olive oil can still work. You can also do a thorough comb through with a fine-toothed comb, using mayo, olive oil, or a number of other lubricants.
Essential oils are being used in medicine to help combat antibiotic resistant microbes and there no reason to believe super lice would be resistant to them.
The Mayo Clinic reported that some evidence shows that essential oils like tea tree, anis, and ylang ylang can be toxic to lice.
Essential oils are potent and occasionally cause allergic reactions, so dilute with a carrier oil and consult a healthcare professional before using on young children.
Another chemical-free treatment option is heat. One FDA-approved device for people over the age of 4, the AirAllé, uses dry, warm air to dehydrate and kill both lice and eggs.
Claire Roberts, CEO of Lice Clinics of America, which offers AirAllé treatments, said that nearly all people who come in for the treatment have super lice.
Treatments take about an hour and Roberts said the majority of people don’t need a second round. And while some parts of the head (like the hairline on the neck) can be more sensitive to the amount of heat needed to kill lice, most patients find treatments comfortable, she said.
“Some clients have told us it feels like getting a spa treatment, and others have actually fallen asleep during treatment,” Roberts stated in an email.
An AirAllé session is also followed by combing and costs around $170 (sometimes covered by insurance).
And to be extra safe, when you have a lice infestation you should wash and dry all bedding on high heat. If pillows or stuffed animals can’t get wet, the heat of the dryer can suffice.
Clean all hats, helmets, headphones, and hair care items and accessories.
The Mayo Clinic said you can seal unwashable items in a plastic bag for two-weeks, at which point the lice will certainly be dead because they can’t live more than two days without a human host.
Lice can’t infest pets so no need to clean cats and dogs.