Can Head Lice Become Immune to Treatments?

Can Head Lice Become Immune to Treatments?

For years, people used non-prescription products to get rid of head lice, but the products have not always been effective. The CDC suggests seeing a health care provider to determine the best lice treatment. A doctor can prescribe highly effective prescription head lice treatments that can be applied directly to the scalp.

Unfortunately, head lice are becoming resistant to many common treatments. In fact, the CDC estimates that 12 million school-aged children in the United States get head lice each year. This is due to the fact that lice are becoming genetically resistant to over-the-counter treatments. One recent study1 found that lice in at least 25 states have become resistant to over-the-counter treatments.

Fortunately, there are a number of alternative treatments available. These include essential oils and plant extracts. While many of these treatments don’t have a lot of clinical evidence, they can be effective. Some of them only require a single application, and others are recommended for repeated treatments as needed.

While conventional treatments work well for most types of lice, a study conducted in 2016 found that some super lice are resistant to common treatments. These super lice are resistant to treatments using permethrin and pyrethrin. Because they’re resistant to these products, they’re difficult to distinguish from normal lice.