'Super Lice' invade Texas schools

Experts say bugs are resistant to treatment

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - They're being called "super lice", highly resistant little critters that are being spotted in the heads of kids in Houston.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found 100 percent of the lice tested in Florida and California are resistant to the active ingredients in the most common over the counter and prescription treatments.

It's a year-round problem and it only gets worse as we head into the long summer break when kids are at summer camps and play dates.

If you've been there, you know the painstaking process to remove head lice.

Penny Warner is President and CEO of The Lice Place in Bellaire, formerly the Texas Lice Squad.

She told Local 2, "I call them an equal opportunity parasite. They don't care where you go to school. They don't care where you live. Their only requirement is that you have hair."

Warner is familiar with the so-called "super lice" that some experts believe have developed thicker exoskeletons, making conventional treatments ineffective.

"Over the years, they have just developed a resistance to the over the counter products, Warner said. "We even see them developing a resistance to the prescription products."

Warner said there is no magic potion, and she's seen frustrated parents try everything from mayonnaise to vodka to no avail.

"We treat without the use of any pesticides or chemicals, Warner explained. "It's simply a manual removal and that is the safest and most effective way to get rid of head lice."

Lice is spread by head to head contact. Kids ages 3 to 11 are most affected.

Warner's best recommendation is regular head checks or "Once a Week, Take a Peek."

She explained, "Children on average will have this about four to six weeks before it's found, and by that time, you've got a full blown case and its spread to other members of the household."

Warner said a mint spray or shampoo can help deter lice.

She also advised parents to be proactive. If your child has lice, don't hesitate to inform their school, daycare and close friends.

In addition, parents may not know that in January of this year, the Texas Education Agency changed the state law so that schools are no longer required to send children with lice home.

That decision is up to the individual schools.

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