Head lice is always a concern as kids head back to school, but a recent study gives parents a new reason to worry even more.

head lice
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Researchers at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville identified New Jersey as one of dozens of states that are home to super-strains of lice that are immune to most over-the-counter treatments. According to the research, 50 to 90 percent of lice in New Jersey showed resistance when tested.

Dr. Avery Kuflik, a board certified dermatologist with offices throughout Ocean County, said lice is spread during close contact or through the sharing of brushes and combs. He pointed out while there has been resistance to the over-the-counter strength permethrin treatments, prescription-strength doses remain effective in killing lice.

"Fortunately it still works with the 5 percent permethrin, which is Elimite cream, which we use for other conditions like scabies," said Kuflik. "Whereas, maybe the RID, or the 1 percent over-the-counter permethrins may not be strong enough."

Kuflik suggested leaving lice hair treatments in overnight and washing out the medications in the morning, instead of just applying for a few hours. After a treatment is applied, a person may still see nits, or lice eggs.

"You just have to comb those out. That's why we recommend a [fine] comb to comb it out. They will grow out over time as well, as the hair grows out, but they're not actually the lice, so when you kill the lice, you could still have dead, empty shells," Kuflik said.

As far as using home remedies, such as Vaseline or mayonnaise to treat lice, Kuflik said they aren't as effective as other treatments.

Kuflik also suggested using Ivermectin, an anti-parasite medicine used to treat scabies resistant to the permethrens or Elimite.

"I have used that occasionally. It's an oral medication. If we have to use it for head lice, however, I would not use that first-line. It's not approved. I would use the permethrins," Kuflik said.

Once the school year starts, dermatology offices tend to see more cases of lice, according to Kuflik, who added that school nurses usually are the first to detect the pesky parasites.

The symptoms of lice include scratching and itching. In addition, lice usually can be seen jumping upon closer inspection.



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