Parents Exploring New Options As Drug-Resistant Lice Spread

Use the links below for more information about lice and treatments

As children start school, it’s not just the homework that's a big worry.

Head lice is also a big concern, especially after a recent study showed many states — including California — now has lice that has become resistant to traditional over-the-counter treatments.

The creatures are something that many parents are horrified to discover has come into their homes.

"I've even done home remedies like mayonnaise," said mom Lis Abujaber, who recently had a battle with lice that didn’t go away with traditional treatments.

To battle the pesky critters, some parents are turning to alternative options.

After trying all the home remedies she could without success, Abujaber visited Lice Clinics of America, a business that opened in Pasadena in January. It is one of several urgent care clinics for lice across the area.

Dahlia Sayegh was a hair salon owner before opening the facility.

"Our last year open as a regular hair salon we had numerous clients come in and I couldn't treat them. I felt helpless," said Sayegh.

Now, she uses a chemical-free method to kill lice and their eggs

"The AirAlle is the hot air that dehydrates the nits, the eggs and the lice," Sayegh said, demonstrating a device that resembles a vacuum hose.

After the hourlong treatment, the nits, eggs and lice are then combed out. Combined with a mousse and oil, the process costs anywhere from $60 to $175, compared to about $20 for over-the-counter remedies.

Last week, researchers said during a presentation at the American Chemical Society's 250th meeting that "KDR" or "knock down resistance" mutations in lice have "saturated" states, including California, which means drugstore treatments may not get rid of the issue.

"The prescription drugs are much more expensive and so the cost to society now in treating resistant head lice is going to be more,” said Dr. Ben Schwartz, with the LA County Department of Public Health.

Schwartz said going the usual route could still be a solution, though, for many families.

"You want something that is safe for your child. You want something that is appropriate for the child's age because different drugs are licensed for different aged children," he said.

Schwartz also said that lice is not associated with hygiene, and that all populations get it. He said a good rule of thumb to remember that lice don't jump or fly, they only crawl.

Head-to-head contact, more than pillows or even brushes, will spread lice, Schwartz said, adding that it is good to remember that they are not a disease carrier.

Prevention is a matter of checking your and your children's hair and checking in with your doctor, who may be the best source for what’s happening with lice around you.

Sayegh said she also helps her clients by given them advice on what to do after an infestation.

"I explain to them that they really need to be thorough with cleaning at home," Sayegh said.

At the end of this or any other lice-ridding process, there’s just one thing any mom wants, Liz Abujaber said.

"Get it done and know that it's going to work," Abujaber said.

The lice have been found in 25 states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas.

Use the links below for more information about treatments:

California Department of Public Health Guide

American Chemical Society Report

What to Do About Head Lice


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