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98 Percent of Head Lice Now Resistant to the Chemicals That Treat Them

A new study published in the "Journal of Medical Entomology" is sure to make your skin crawl.
August 4, 2016, 1:57pm
Image by Guille Faingold via Stocksy

A new study conducted by the Journal of Medical Entomology has found that head lice are becoming resistant to most over-the-counter chemicals used to treat them.

According to the Daily Caller, "JME studied 48 states and found that, on average, 98 percent of head lice in at least 42 states managed to grow gene mutations that enable them to become resistant to different insecticides other wise known as pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and permathrins."

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The troubling statistic comes as no surprise to Kyle Vuong of Hair Fairies, a chain of national salons that specialize in delousing children. Hair Fairies has operated for seventeen years and, according to Vuong, business only continues to grow. Many clients find their way to Vuong and his colleagues after failed DIY attempts at lice removal using over-the-counter products.

"One bug lays about four to six eggs a day on the hair strand per day," Voung explains. "Eighty percent of our clients are coming to us with 50 to 100 eggs in their hair. This tells us that the eggs are not being fully removed by insecticides."

Read More: Going to an Insect Petting Zoo: The Greatest Mistake of My Life

Vuong points out that head lice can be transmitted to anyone, regardless of personal hygiene, socio-economic status, or particular hair type, though in the past year he has seen more middle and high-schoolers seeking out treatment. Some experts have cautioned against selfies, which may give lice the head-to-head contact they need to spread when teens cram their heads together for a photo.

If all this has you psychosomatically scratching your suddenly-itchy head, you may want to pack up and head to Michigan, the only state in the study where lice still fully susceptible to the chemicals were collected.