Super Lice FAQ


An infestation of head lice is bad enough, but there’s a more persistent pest that is becoming more common – super lice.

The key problem for frustrated parents trying to treat their school-aged children is that super lice are very difficult to eliminate. The little blood-suckers cause itching and discomfort, just like other head lice, but they’re much more stubborn when it comes to treatment.

While super lice have now become a relatively common problem, they’re a new phenomenon for most parents. They’re not the same lice you may have dealt with as a child, so it’s important to “know thy enemy” and make an appropriate plan of attack.

Below are some FAQs that regularly come up about super lice. 

What are super lice?

Super lice are head lice like any other, with one key difference: they are very resistant to common over-the-counter treatment products. This particularly includes pyrethroid treatments such as permethrin. These products have been widely-used over several decades and are still the most common treatment offerings in-store.

Super lice look just like regular lice infestations. The lice are tiny, wingless insects that are approximately the size of a sesame seed. They live by feeding on blood from the human scalp. Their eggs, known as “nits” are about the size of a poppy seed and usually whitish in appearance. This can make them difficult to see, depending on the color of an infested child’s hair.

Studies estimate that two-thirds to three-quarters of lice present in the United States are super lice. This means that if your child has lice, there’s a strong chance you may be dealing with super lice. 

What are the symptoms of super lice?

The most common symptom of super lice is like any other head lice infestation – unbearable itching! However, some children will experience no symptoms whatsoever, while it’s also possible for an infestation to remain after itching has stopped.

If you are performing regular head checks of your child, you may discover the presence of lice without having noted any symptoms first. Super lice are tiny and brownish in color, while their eggs stick to the hair shaft and are usually a cream or white color.

It’s important to be very clear that you have a diagnosis of lice before beginning any treatment regimen, especially if you’re trying over-the counter products. One reason for the build-up of resistance to treatment among lice is incorrect application of purchased products. Secondly, if you’re going to use any chemical treatments, they carry an element of health risk for your child. Thus, you don’t want to apply them unnecessarily. 

How do I know my child has super lice?

In short, you don’t. Super lice have the same appearance and behaviors as regular lice. Parents usually discover that they’re dealing with super lice when they try standard treatments, only to have them fail.

Given the widespread nature of the super lice problem, it’s always worth considering upfront that you may be dealing with them. One thing to remember with common pyrethroid treatments is that they are a known neurotoxin. You need to weigh whether you want to take the risk and use these treatments first, or turn to non-toxic treatment methods that have been proven to rid super lice. 

How are super lice spread?

Super lice spread the same way as regular lice. Most commonly, this is through head-to-head contact or sharing of personal items. For example, lice can spread fairly quickly through a daycare where kids share the clothes in the costume box.

Lice don’t jump or fly, but they crawl very quickly. They love clean, healthy scalps, so an infestation is NOT an indicator of poor personal hygiene. Super lice don’t discriminate over who they infest – celebrity parents such as Heidi Klum and Jennifer Garner have spoken out about dealing with lice among their kids.

What steps can I take to prevent super lice?

 It’s difficult to prevent your child from getting super lice if they are present at school. You can teach them not to share personal items such as hair brushes, hats, scarves or coats. However, kids, especially younger ones, do tend to play closely together, making lice difficult to avoid.

One thing you can do to try to fend off super lice is to perform regular head checks. Once each week, comb through your child’s hair and inspect any debris you pick up on the comb. Compare with pictures of lice and nits at various stages (you can find several online). Be especially vigilant if lice have been reported at your child’s school.

Secondly, if your child has long hair, keep it tied up and with fly-aways smoothed down as best as possible. This isn’t a sure preventative, but it makes the pathway a little harder for super lice. 

How do I treat a super lice infestation?

You’re not going to succeed treating super lice with commonly known over-the counter treatments. Fortunately, scientists have found that one of the best treatments is quite simple – thoroughly combing out the lice.

This can be tedious as it involves carefully sectioning hair and working a comb through the hair from scalp to ends. Many lice removal clinics have sprung up around the country to help with this, although their fees can be prohibitive for most parents.

Purchasing an electric lice comb such as the RobiComb® is an effective alternative. The electric comb boosts the effectiveness of your combing by stunning or killing lice with an electric charge. Lice and egg debris are then combed out and removed.

Are you dealing with a super lice infestation? There’s a high chance that you are if your child has lice.   But don’t despair! While super lice are resistant to common chemicals, they can be safely and effectively removed through non-toxic combing.


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