Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Treatment-Resistant Head Lice: Icky, Yes. Health Hazard, No.

male head louse
Gilles San Martin via Flickr

A strain of treatment-resistant head lice, nicknamed "super lice," have been reported in more than two dozen states, including Florida.

And, as every parent knows, there are few things in life that can get a child sent home from school faster than a case of head lice.  Just ask Mandy Ottensen.

“In Northeast Florida, primarily we’re in a — it’s a no-nit-policy world that we live in here," she says.

Ottensen knows because she owns Fresh Heads Lice Removal, a Jacksonville clinic that specializes in getting rid of head lice and their eggs, or nits.  She says she’s been hearing about super lice for a while.

“We had people calling us for years saying they’ve been trying new things for weeks and months and they still have lice," she says. "So now we have actual, good, well-funded studies that prove that the bugs have mutated and that the over-the-counter pesticides aren’t working anymore.”

And even though lice can make your head itch like crazy, Ottensen says they won’t make you sick.

“The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics call head lice a nuisance, not a health issue," she says. "They are just creepy and, you know, icky, but that’s it.”

Ottensen says it’s rare to see a live louse in someone’s hair because the bugs move around.  Nits, however, stay put.  They look like tiny, dark brown kernels of rice that are stuck to hair shafts.

Her clinic, Fresh Heads, uses an FDA-approved hair dryer-like gadget to dehydrate and kill head lice and their nits.  And that includes the super variety as well.  

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.