Sheridan Parents Are Worried about Head Lice
Did you know lice are mutating into "super lice" that are more resistant to treatment?
Ready for an icky topic? Head lice.
No one really wants to talk about these blood-sucking parasites but plenty were Tuesday night in the People of Sheridan Facebook group, one of the most entertaining small-town groups on social media.
Apparently, head lice has become a major problem in the Sheridan School District. Some parents said that schools no longer send alerts to them about head lice so it seems to be a figure-it-out-on-your-own problem.
The Sheridan School District did not reply to an email seeking comment about lice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult head lice can become a big problem although they are tiny, 2-3 mm long. They infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. They crawl. They do not hop like fleas or fly like a mosquito.
Pets – dogs and cats – do not play a role in the head lice transformation. Schools, sports activities and playgrounds are a big spreader of lice.
Symptoms of head lice include:
Feeling something moving in the hair
Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to head lice bites
Difficulty sleeping (Head lice are more active in the dark.)
Head sores that can become infected with bacteria from the skin
"The head louse found most frequently in the United States may have claws that are better adapted for grasping the shape and width of some types of hair but not others," the CDC states.
Lice infestations occur mostly from August through October and again in January.
The Arkansas Department of Health and the Department of Education published a 47-page manual on head lice and bed bugs based off of a 2022 similar document from Tennessee.
The manual also states that mass screenings should not occur at schools because of "stigma" associated with the screenings.
While the manual states head lice does not spread disease, if head lice are left untreated, they can cause hair loss, infection and even toxic shock syndrome.
The manual said that parents should rely on an over the counter treatment or a prescription from a doctor.
“There are many common, effective, and inexpensive treatments available,” according to the state’s manual. “Shaving of hair or using alternative remedies such as tea tree oil, mayonnaise, olive oil, butter, or margarine is not recommended.”
Yet, many parents swear by tea tree oil and shampoos containing the oil, mayonnaise with hair in a shower cap overnight and even frankincense shampoo bars made from goat milk. Vinegar concoctions have also been used for centuries.
A nit comb is also handy regardless of a treatment plan. Doctors recommend using the nit combing nightly and washing and drying bed linens, clothing, hats and scarves.
The Arkansas Department of Education also has a page about “School Head Lice Protocols.” It is unclear if a protocol has been established in the Sheridan School District since South Arkansas Reckoning received no reply from either Andy Mayberry, the school's communications director and recruitment officer, or Superintendent Dr. Karla Neathery.
The Big Business of Lice
As the Arkansas Department of Education points to a 2004 national study about lice: “The annual combined direct cost (medicines, products, and treatments) of head lice infestations in the United States (US) total $240 million. Once indirect costs (missed work and school days, misuse of treatments, misdiagnosis) are considered, the US economic burden of head lice surpasses $1 billion.”
That study was nearly 20 years ago so that number has likely doubled over time.
Lice treatment clinics are throughout the United States. Lice Clinics of America is a major franchise with 200+ locations in 15 countries including in Cabot and Jonesboro.
"Lice Clinics of America has the ONLY heated-air lice device that has been cleared by the FDA. No pre-treatment, like imitators require. We are certified experts that use science-based heated-air technology. We are the standard of care and operate the largest worldwide network of professional head lice clinics. One hour. One visit. Lice free."
The treatment lasts for approximately 30 days.
If old school head lice weren't bad enough, apparently lice are evolving into super lice.
Lice Clinics of America states: "Super lice” are those that have developed resistance to pesticides used for killing them.
A 2015 study by the American Chemical Society found that “104 out of 109 lice populations tested had high levels of gene mutations resistant to chemicals found in over the counter treatments that are still widely recommended by doctors and schools.”
The mutated strains were in several states including Arkansas.
Web MD published an article on super lice in May.
"When these medications were first released, they were helpful in 88% to 99% of treatments. Over time, these medications have been widely used, and lice have adapted with genetic changes that make them resistant to these treatments.”
If two rounds of intense treatment have not killed the live lice, it may be a sign of super lice and medical treatment is needed.
The doctor may prescribe: ivermectin, malathion lotion, spinosad suspension or other treatments.
Head lice should be taken very seriously by parents and school administrators.
As one parent said in last night's group: “All I got to say is if my daughter ends up with head lice I'm gonna be mad!”