Lice expert warns about treatment-resistant 'super-lice'

Lice expert warns about treatment-resistant 'super-lice'
Lice Specialist combing hair of young girl at Coastal Lice Center in Myrtle Beach.
Lice Specialist combing hair of young girl at Coastal Lice Center in Myrtle Beach.
Lice Treatment
Lice Treatment
Catherine Collins, Owner and Lice Specialist of Coastal Lice Center.
Catherine Collins, Owner and Lice Specialist of Coastal Lice Center.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A warning for parents: a new and potentially drug-resistant species of head lice is showing up on the heads of kids around the United States.

Specialists at the Coastal Lice Center say a special lice comb should be on your child's supply list. They also say that early detection and prevention are some of the best ways to fight lice.

Lice specialist Catherine Collins says lice keep her busy during the summer. "People are returning from summer camp or from visiting out-of-town relatives - they bring it back, and also I have had tourists find me."

Now as kids head back to school, there's the potential nuisance of "super lice." A study found 95 percent of lice populations collected from at least 25 states, including South Carolina, tested positive for a mutation resistant to common over-the-counter treatments.

"Like antibiotics, people misuse it and the germs get resistant, so that can be the same case with that, and just the bugs are adapting – it's been around for so long," Collins said.

According to Collins, the over-the-counter products are pesticides that you are putting in your child's head, and she said it is not even an guarantee they will work effectively.

"Even if you do get rid of the lice it will not get rid of the nits, which are the eggs, the over-the-counter treatments will not do anything for the eggs," said Collins.

So what should parent do?

"The best thing to do prevent at school is to wear your hair in a ponytail, spray it with mint spray every morning, and check your hair once a week with a good lice comb," Collins recommends.

Health officials say you really do have to get in there and pick the lice out of your child's hair.

"Early detection is really key," Collins adds. "That's why it's suggested that you get a good lice comb. It should be on everybody's school list."

Collins says lice use your hair as transportation to your scalp to bite you. "It's not about cleanliness, it's not that you have a dirty house or a dirty head - lice don't discriminate," she says.

Collins says there are lots of myths about lice: "Lice really do prefer clean hair as opposed to dirty hair, they're not always that picky because they just need to have a meal."

"You cannot wash out - they hold their breath for two hours so you are showering or swimming and the lice are coming up for air as well," Collins adds.

Parents should fight the instinct to over-treat, or give preventive treatments, because that's actually contributing to the resistance problem.

"Make sure you follow the directions because it's a pesticide that you are putting on your hair, and do not use it any more often than it says, because it can be dangerous to your child," Collins explains.

Next week, Coastal Lice center will offer free screenings, and teachers are always welcomed to come in for a free screening. All you have to do call to make an appointment.

"It is such a stressful thing to have lice, parents call me in tears, and I remember that feeling as a parent when my children had lice, so I just want to help people," expressed Collins.

Head to for more information and to make an appointment today.

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