WATCH ABOVE: With back to school comes peak season for lice. Su-Ling Goh has some tips on how to treat it.
EDMONTON — The term “mutant lice” might make you picture cartoon bugs with massive muscles and evil eyes, but they aren’t really that scary. Today’s head lice are simply a product of natural selection: the insects that couldn’t survive common pesticides died, while those that lived passed their genetic mutations to their offspring.
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That explains why a 2014 study showed nearly 100 per cent of North American lice sampled had the mutation for permethrin resistance. Permethrin is one of the most common ingredients in lice treatments.
So what’s a parent to do?
It’s estimated 10 per cent of school kids will get lice, so you can try to teach your child not to get too close their friends (good luck with that). Thankfully, lice can’t jump or fly, but they can crawl from head to head, and they can live for up to 48 hours on surfaces like clothing or bedding.
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Removal experts at Lice Squad recommend you buy a good lice comb and use it regularly, before the insects have a chance to reproduce.
“Go through the hot spots first,” said Jennifer Armstrong.
“So [comb] the top of the head, behind the ears, the bottom of the neck and [the temples]. That’s usually where they’re going to have it.”
Armstrong is a professional nitpicker with Lice Squad. For $75 an hour, she will come to your house, teach you how to prevent lice from spreading, and check every member of the family. The company uses pesticide-free treatments to loosen the eggs (nits) and smother any live insects. Armstrong manually removes them with a special bug-zapping comb.
London Drugs pharmacist Anil Goorachurn stresses the old lice treatments do still work, but admits they are not as effective as they used to be.
He recommends a new tool, the Nitview LED Lice Detection Device, which makes lice and nits glow, so they’re easier to spot.
Goorachurn also suggests mayonnaise, Vaseline, and Cetaphil lotion as chemical-free ways to smother the insects.
Both Goorachurn and Armstrong say manual removal is unavoidable. But they remind parents not to panic: lice aren’t dangerous, just disturbing.
“There is a lot of stigma,” said Goorachurn.
“People are embarrassed and they shouldn’t be because it happens quite a bit. It has nothing to do with cleanliness, hygiene, anything like that. It’s so easily contracted.”
“It’s lice,” said Armstrong. “It’s no big deal.”