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Everything You Need to Know About Super Lice

Everything You Need to Know About Super Lice
Created on 
May 22, 2019
Updated on 
August 11, 2021

Parasites, just like viruses and bacteria, have an uncanny ability to mutate into more infectious forms. Similar to mutations that make viruses more contagious, or bacteria resistant to antibiotics, head lice mutations make them less sensitive to lice shampoo. Let’s learn about super lice vs regular lice.

What Is Super Lice?

According to the CDC, “super lice” are head lice that have genetically mutated to be unaffected by over-the-counter lice shampoos with pesticides. Lice shampoos haven’t changed much in the past few decades, and the bugs are pulling ahead in the battle. Super lice cannot be treated with treatments that were effective in the past.

Lice vs. Super Lice: What's The Difference?

Lice vs. Super Lice

When parents use a lice shampoo and the lice come back, they start to wonder, could it be super lice? Parents call us to ask, “what does super lice look like?” They’re looking for bugs that are bigger, darker, stronger, faster, or itchier. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to look at a case of lice and tell whether it’s super lice or regular lice.

Super lice are just a mutated strain of regular lice, so they behave and look the same, except when it comes to their reaction to pesticides. The most common treatment that parents reach for is still over-the-counter lice shampoo. Because most OTC lice shampoos with pesticides kill only 2% of super lice bugs, and no super lice eggs, super lice treatment is more challenging than regular lice treatment. Parents will often treat it over and over, just to see another bug, and they feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

In What States and Countries Is Super Lice a Common Problem?

Since 2000, scientists have studied the prevalence of chemical resistant lice in the US. One such study tested populations in 30 states, concluding that in all but one of the states observed, lice were completely or at least partially immune to OTC permethrin treatments. A more recent study at Southern Illinois University found super lice in 48 states.

In addition to the U.S., super lice are present in nations across the world. Countries all over Europe, as well as Canada, Australia, Turkey, Israel, and Mexico have reported incidences of super lice.

Symptoms of Super Lice

Super Lice Symptoms

Super lice have all the symptoms of normal head lice, including:

  • Barely visible tiny nits glued to the hairs within 1 quarter of the scalp.
  • An itchy rash on the head and neck that may seem worse at night.

In addition to these, super lice:

  • Return after OTC treatment.
  • May be observed moving in the hair right after or even during OTC treatment.

How Do You Get Super Lice?

Super lice are spread by direct person-to-person contact about 95% of the time. Contact where heads touch, like carrying kids, hugging, selfies, playground-type physical play, hair styling, and contact sports, are the main risky activities. The chance of catching super lice from all other sources is very small. Although they may laugh in the face of lice shampoo, they are NOT so super in other ways. In other words, super lice still cannot fly, jump, or live in environments other than head hair.

Super Lice Treatment

Lice Treatment

One of the main reasons parents get so frustrated when trying to treat super lice on their own is the idea that there is a secret trick that could eradicate the problem instantly and easily, if they only knew what it was! While super lice are a real concern, they can be treated effectively with non-chemical methods. Instead of focusing on how to kill super lice, focus on how to get rid of super lice: remove them! None of the home remedies for super lice are completely effective without removal of all living lice and nits from the hair. Fortunately, that’s exactly what LiceDoctors does.

How to Check for Super Lice?

Super lice look like lice: sesame seed sized and shaped, translucent with a dark brown abdomen, and 6 short legs. Super lice nits look like nits; clear, tan or brownish teardrops, glued to the hair near the scalp. Here’s more advice on checking for lice.

How to Prevent Super Lice?

Since super lice are harder to kill, it’s more important than ever to prevent them. Here are some super lice prevention tips we’ve found pass the test of time:

  • Wear hair tied back
  • Apply products like gel, hair oil, or hairspray
  • Use LiceDoctors safe and natural lice repellent products every day
  • When you do get lice, warn other families with whom you’ve had recent contact, so they can check their hair, and don’t end up giving it back to you later


Super Lice Treatment

We offer super lice treatment that is guaranteed to be effective. Call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 day or night, and your friendly neighborhood LiceDoctors super technician will be on her way to your home faster than a speeding bullet.

We provide a friendly in-home lice removal service

Book your appointment today


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