Updated on July 19, 2020
Why do so many attempts to treat head lice within a family fail? It is a very frustrating experience for many well-intended parents. There are a few reasons why.
"Please come to my home right away! My daughter has live lice bugs in her hair despite the fact that I treated her last night with a chemical lice shampoo!"' insisted a mom from a northern suburb of Chicago. Unfortunately for families, this is a call we get, in various incarnations, every day. Why is that? There are a few major reasons why it is so difficult to eliminate head lice on your own.
Lice Have Mutated and are Often Resistant to Chemical Lice Treatments
Head lice have been over-exposed to lice pesticides and over the years have developed a resistance.
“Scientists who study lice populations across the country have reported that the bugs found in at least 25 states — including Illinois — have developed into creatures quite resistant to common over-the-counter treatments. The researchers reported those findings to the American Chemical Society this week.
Kyong Yoon, Ph.D., a Southern Illinois University researcher, was among those who uncovered the findings.
"What we found was that 104 out of the 109 lice populations we tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids," Yoon was quoted in a media release as saying.
Pyrethoids are a type of insecticide that is commonly used to help control mosquitoes and other insects, such as lice. Yoon ultimately found that some lice populations were developing mutations that enabled them to survive exposure to the insecticides commonly used to treat children and adults who suffer from infestations.
"If you use a chemical over and over, these little creatures will eventually develop resistance," Yoon says. "So we have to think before we use a treatment. The good news is head lice don't carry disease. They're more a nuisance than anything else." Patch Article
Parents hope to eradicate head lice with OTC or prescription chemicals and dutifully follow the directions. Sadly, bugs have become resistant to many traditional pesticides such as permethrin, malathion, lindane, carbaryl, pyrethrum, piperonyl butoxide, phenothrin, bioallethrin, and spinosad.
Lice or Nits are Left in the Hair and the Case Lives On
To eradicate live bugs, LiceDoctors recommends to smother them with oil. That is a good first step. After that, it is imperative that you nit-pick. That means you must remove every egg from the hair. Lice will not disappear by themselves and if you leave 2 eggs in the hair, they will hatch and in very short order you will be faced with a full-blown case of head lice all over again.
You can spend hours upon hours picking lice out of a family member’s head but if you overlook a couple of nits (eggs), you have not eliminated the lice problem. The remaining nits will hatch and a baby bug (nymph) will come out. The nymph will shortly mature and then will lay more eggs. The cycle will continue until there are again many nits and lice in the hair.
“Head lice live about 28 days. They develop in 3 phases: egg (also called a nit), nymph, and adult louse.
• Egg or nit. Eggs or nits hatch in 6 to 9 days. Eggs are usually found within 4 to 6 mm of the scalp and do not survive if they are farther away.
• Nymph. The nymph looks like an adult head louse but is much smaller (about the size of a pinhead [1.5 mm]). Nymphs become adults about 7 days after hatching.
• Adult louse. An adult louse can multiply fast and lay up to 10 eggs a day. It takes only about 12 to 14 days for newly hatched eggs to reach adulthood.
This cycle can repeat itself every 3 weeks if head lice are left untreated.” Healthy Children.org
Why would nits be left in the hair? If you have tried to remove lice then you know how hard it is to find them. They are small and they blend in with the hair. The average nit is 0.8 mm long and 0.3 mm wide, smaller than a sesame seed. That is why it is very helpful to have a professional conducting the lice removal process.
You Can’t Treat Yourself Properly
Consider how often moms contract head lice from their young children. In three quarters of families, if a toddler or preschool child has lice, mom will get it. The reason for that is that mom and child are in constant close contact, thereby giving lice optimal opportunity to spread from one to the other.
So you are a mom who likely has gotten head lice and who is going to treat you? Even if you can be successful in treating your child, can you reach lice in the back of your hair in order to remove all of them? Unless you literally have eyes in the back of your head, it is going to be extremely challenging to get all of the nits out of the hair.
You Don’t Check and Treat All Family Members
You get a call from your daughter’s school informing you that she has lice. You bring her home and commence your lice picking chores. When your older son gets home, you tell him that he needs to be checked and treated. His response, “No way!” as he runs away from you. You are tired and stressed and you may throw up your arms and rationalize the decision to leave him alone. OR you check child one who has lice and then look at child two and see nothing, and you make the mistake of not treating her even though she does, in fact, have an early case. OR you only see one child scratching and you assume that she is the only family member who has a case, not realizing that some people who have lice show no symptoms. You get the idea. All family members must be thoroughly checked and, if needed, treated to ensure that the lice are eradicated. Because lice are so contagious and families are in close contact, everyone needs to be clear or you will continue to pass around the case.
An experienced professional knows how to find, identify, and extract nits from the hair. As one Chicago area school nurse recounted to us recently "I wish I had a nickel for every time that I see head lice in a student who tells me that her mom already used a lice-killing product. Killing lice is not the hard part; removing all the nits is what makes the difference. The kids who get admitted to school quickly after a lice infestation are usually the ones who have had a lice professional come to their home." If you live in Chicago or any of the Chicago area suburbs, including Evanston, Highland Park, Schaumburg, Orland Park, Naperville, Arlington Heights, Aurora, and many more, and your child or you have head lice, don't waste time and money on ineffective treatments. Call LiceDoctors for same day service and we will take care of all the steps necessary to ensure that you and your family are lice-free. Call today at 312-765-7266 .