Written by Dr. Mark
The kids have been back to school for just over a month now and we’ve already gotten a notice about lice. Lice are typically just a pain to deal with, but they are becoming more difficult to eliminate. Like we’ve been seeing with antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), lice are becoming resistant to pyrethroids, the active ingredient in most over the counter treatments.
These resistant lice are a result of a bigger issue in our country. Over medication! Medication has its proper place in the medical world, and when used appropriately it can be very helpful, but in our country it is being greatly over used. The graph below shows healthcare spending per person in our country compared to others. This includes all healthcare costs but in our country a majority of this is on pharmaceuticals. We comprise about 5% of the world population and we consume approximately 75% of the worlds legal drugs. That number is ridiculous! Prescription drug abuse has become a major problem in our country. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many out there, being so nonchalantly prescribed.
With such overuse of medication in our country it should not be a surprise when we find organisms becoming resistant. It makes sense they would be found across the country. The map below shows where the resistant lice have been found, and the percentage of those that are resistant and not of what they tested.
Researchers are finding that head lice that are becoming resistant to OTC treatments. Red states: 100% resistant lice. Orange: 50-90% resistant. Yellow: 1-49% resistant. Blue: data hasn’t been analyzed yet. White: haven’t been tested. Image curtesy of: http://www.today.com/health/super-strains-lice-spread-25-states-new-report-finds-t37631
Scientists believe the OTC medications will continue to work, but only at higher doses. Where does this train of thought lead us though? More medication, more chemicals on our bodies, more resistance.
Can you prevent lice? There is a common misconception that people believe you are “dirty” if you get lice. This is not the case. Some believe that not washing your hair as often can help deter them, because of the natural oils in your hair, which are removed when you shampoo. But most scientist will say it can infect anyone. Avoiding contact is your best chance.
So what to do if our children catch it? There’s some home remedies out there such as mayonnaise or olive oil which could possibly work. The idea is that the oils basically suffocate the critters and they die off. Another option to consider, probably the route I would first try in my house would be essential oils. A mix of rosemary, melaleuca, and lavender can help deterring lice. If all else fails, there’s the destroying their habitat option… Its 100% effective and doesn’t require any medication but not many kids will be happy about having their head shaven.