Day Kimball Healthcare
Subscribe to Newsletter Browse Stories Related Pages

Browse Stories

Super Mutant Lice Are Real, But Parents Needn't Panic

October 22, 2015
Authored by Marc Cerrone, MD

Prefer to listen? This information is also available in a New Day Show podcast >


Head lice: a common childhood affliction that, though more a nuisance than a health hazard, still strikes fear and disgust in the hearts of most parents. As if your regular garden-variety lice wasn’t bad enough, just as children headed back to school this year reports abounded about “super” or “mutant” lice. The bad news is that the reports are true. The good news is that lice still do not pose any threats to health - but getting rid of them may now require a trip to the doctor’s office.

Head lice are small parasitic bugs that infest human hair and survive by feeding on blood from the scalp. One can contract head lice by coming into close contact with the head of someone who is infested or by sharing items that have been in contact with an infested person’s head, such as hats or hairbrushes.

It’s very common to suffer a head lice infestation at some point in life, particularly in childhood since kids are more apt to have close head-to-head contact with each other and to share personal belongings. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 6 million to 12 million children will become infested with lice this year alone.

So what’s changed to create these super lice? Don’t worry, they can’t jump tall buildings in a single bound (in fact, lice cannot jump at all). But they have developed a resistance to pyrethroids, the family of insecticides that have been used in over-the-counter lice treatments for years.

This resistance had been noted as early as the mid-1990’s, but has now grown much more prevalent. A recent study looked at 109 lice populations from 30 states across the U.S., and of those 95% contained lice that possessed the mutated gene that causes resistance. Twenty-five states in the U.S. are now confirmed to have populations of super lice, Connecticut among them.

What to do if these unwelcome pests hitch a ride on your child’s head and into your home? Don’t panic. First try an over-the-counter treatment such as Rid or Nix, being sure to follow the instructions exactly and never skipping the required second treatment 10 days later. Also thoroughly wash all linens, hats, hairbrushes and any other items that may have come into contact with your child’s head.

If infestation continues, the lice may be of the super variety. You’ll need to see your child’s doctor, who can prescribe a newer treatment that the lice are not resistant to, such as spinosad or topical ivermectin.


    Marc Cerrone, MD, is medical director, Pediatrics, Day Kimball Medical Group and medical director, Pediatric Hospitalist Program, Day Kimball Hospital.



    Related Resources

    Primary Care: Pediatrics > 
    Find a Pediatrician >

    Add Comment


    Browse Stories

    All Day Kimball Medical Group practices are accepting new patients. Find a doctor now.

    Follow Us