Parents need to check kids for ‘super lice’, even with social distancing, doctors say

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(WGN) – With social distancing and canceled camps and classes, pediatricians are seeing fewer cases of lice. But doctors warn parents they need to be on the lookout for the tiny bugs that have developed super powers to resist treatment.

Every year as summer winds down and school activities ramp up, so do cases of lice. This year the bugs ability to spread was thwarted a bit. When kids weren’t close, the bugs couldn’t jump from person to person. 

Dr. Kenneth Polin of Lurie Children’s Primary Care and Town and Country Pediatrics said social distancing has made an impact.

“Fortunately we have seen a downtick in the frequency of lice,” he said. “The social distancing associated with the COVID concerns I think has reduce the number of parent calls we have gotten because of that.”

School lice checkers did the job of screening kids. Now parents need to step up and perhaps log on for help.

“Parents can go online and see how to check their own children for lice if they are concerned,” Polin said. “More importantly, is parents maintaining an ongoing surveillance for their children. Because during the course of the year when their children are less than optimally socially distant, they are more likely to encounter other kids with lice, or clothing with lice on it, such as coats, and develop the infestation of the lice.”

What’s worse, the creepy crawlers are likely to return with a vengeance.

“Over the years, as with bacterial infections, and others, the agent of infection, the lice develop resistance,” Polin said. “They select for genetics, if you will, that allow them to survive despite what used to be effective treatments.”

Prescription medications like Ovide do work to kill the bugs.

“The Ovide is basically a very powerful insecticide but safe for human use,” Polin said.

The Ovide smells bad and it doesn’t insure a child will be lice free.

“Lice has two phases, the active lice and the lice lay eggs in the hair and those eggs may hatch 7-10 days later,” Polin said. “As a result I think retreatment is a good idea.”

Parents can also nit pick, essentially searching for and meticulously removing eggs attached to the hair. But it’s a slow and tedious process.

Other medications can kill the eggs.

Doctors say the key is parents need to look closely, not just at the scalp to check for lice, but at their child’s overall health. With so many hyper focused on COVID, other important health markers are being missed.

“We’ve seen a lot less sick visits because with less contact, there’s less disease,” Polin said. “But less contact with the doctor, checkups that are being skipped, immunizations, developmental assessments – so these things are at risk of being missed. Or being delayed.”

Do a baseline lice check before your child goes back to school and is exposed to so many others. That way you will know if they have a dry scalp,  and you will begin to differentiate between that and a lice infestation.     

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