Summer is quickly approaching, and so are summer camps. But this year, in addition to keeping kids entertained and cool, American parents are being warned by pharmaceutical companies about the ever evolving threat of "super lice" coming to their children's heads.
After years of treating lice in America with over-the-counter pesticides, lice have developed resistance, Marketwire reports. These new, harder to kill lice have been dubbed "super lice," and their outbreaks have been mapped all over the country. In their wake, businesses have popped up to treat the new itchy epidemic.
Now that summer is around the corner and children across the country are gearing up to share unfamiliar bunk beds, multiple companies that deal with lice have come forward to either offer their services to parents or release new treatments. Lice Clinics of America, a network of urgent care clinics that only treat lice that formed in 2014 in response to an outbreak, is a perfect example. The company uses a patented dehydrating process to kill lice and eggs at their clinics, and in a May 9 press release, it announced a new over-the-counter lice remover kit "for simple at-home treatment."
Likewise, Vamousse Lice Treatment Products and Lizzie's Lice Pickers issued press releases in May about the lice-related dangers facing children at summer camp, and the steps parents can take about it. Vamousse promotes its lice-killing gels and products as at-camp solutions, while Lizzie's offers post-camp sessions in the privacy of patients' homes.
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This new wave of convenient lice solutions might seem like the perfect panacea for an annoying and recurring problem, but it also belies a dangerous trend gripping America: lice outbreaks continue to happen, and the treatments being provided might not be doing enough to stop heartier lice.
Between two thirds and three quarters of lice are immune to the effects of over-the-counter insecticides, meaning there's a lot of money to be made, Scientific American reports. Because of that, lice picking services have stepped in to clean children's heads and charge parents high rates -- a method that is also inconsistent.
Scientific American points to European treatments as one possible solution. In Europe, lice are treated with synthetic oils, and outbreaks are far less common because of it. The oils completely cover the lice, preventing the bugs from secreting water, and kills them without any possibility of resistance forming. However, because the U.S. views the synthetic oils as medications that have not yet passed regulatory standards, the treatment is rare in America.
But synthetic oil treatments only work after a child has gotten lice, and outbreaks continue to pop up in about the same percentages today as they did two decades ago. For now, it seems lice will remain a thorn in the side of American parents, and big business in American pharmacies for at least one more summer.