“Hooray, my child has super lice!” said no parent ever. Unfortunately, ‘super lice’ is a phrase being used all too often this school year. Evidently, this year’s outbreak of head lice is worse than usual, as a particularly hardy strain of lice has been reported in 25 states. The bugs are resistant to typical over-the-counter lice treatments that parents rely on to combat the pests, leaving many scratching their heads for more than one reason. Fortunately, there are safe and natural ways to fight an infestation.
Health officials are warning that, since drugstore products may not work to eradicate the tiny bugs, a prescription-strength medication may be needed. For parents who wish to avoid using insecticides on their little ones, natural methods of treatment should work just fine on the super lice. Coconut oil or olive oil can be applied to the child’s head, and left to sit under a shower cap for eight hours — this method suffocates the bugs.
Follow with a fine-tooth lice comb to remove the dead lice and egg sacs. Several rounds of this treatment may be required to get them all, but with diligence, it’s a safe method to use. Some lice experts say oil treatments should be repeated on days 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21 to effectively disrupt the insects’ life cycles.
Insect experts say treating your home after a lice infestation is not as difficult as many people think. Focusing clean-up efforts on bedding and anywhere that stray hairs might fall is your best bet, but it’s not necessary to boil all the sheets or vacuum the entire house top to bottom. Since lice cannot survive without food (blood) for more than 48 hours, starvation is the best way to kill them off, so stash pillows and quilts in a large garbage bag for at least two days.
For a truly persistent infestation, expert help might be required. Professional lice-removal services use an FDA-approved medical device known as AirAllé, which kills lice and their nits with heated air. That treatment runs around $170 and may even be covered by your medical insurance.