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    Options for treating drug-resistant lice

    Don’t be a louse: If you want to protect your patients against head lice, you need to understand the threat of these super-powered bugs—now often resistant to drugs—and the many ways to kill them off.

    Lice are becoming more immune to over-the-counter drugs like Rid and Nix, says Raegan Hunt, M.D., Ph.D. Earlier this year, a study1 examined head lice in 48 states (all but Alaska and West Virginia) and found 98% had developed mutations.

    The good news: “There are several fairly recently FDA-approved topical lice treatments that can be used to combat the resistant ‘super lice,’” says Dr. Hunt, a pediatric dermatologist at Texas Children's Hospital.

    Dr. Hunt spoke about lice in an interview with Dermatology Times prior to her presentation at the summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Boston.

    She offers these tidbits about the world of nits: head lice die in one to two days without feeding, and nits die within a week and cannot hatch if they are not near the scalp.

    What can be done? Hygiene is helpful, she says. Machine wash and dry all clothing and bed linens worn in the two days before treatment. Items that can’t be washed should be placed in plastic bags for two weeks. Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130°F) for five minutes. And vacuum the floor and furniture around where the infested person sits or sleeps.

    Dr. Hunt also offers these pearls:

    • Lice move by crawling. They cannot hop or fly.
    • Pets do not play a role in transmission of human lice.
    • Nits alone do not indicate contagiousness.
    • Suspect sexual abuse if another kind of lice, pubic lice, appears in young or adolescent children.

    Next: Treatments for resistant lice

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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