Is My Toddler at Risk for Super Lice?

This week, just as kids across the country are beginning to head back to school, news outlets began reporting that a team of researchers at Southern Illinois University have found that lice are becoming increasingly resistant to the active ingredient in common over-the-counter remedies. While pyrethroid, the active ingredient, is still able to kill lice, you may need a much higher dosage than before to do so. “Super lice” have been found in 25 states, including Illinois, California, Florida, New York and Texas.

Is your toddler at risk?

According to the CDC

"In the United States, infestation with head lice is most common among pre-school children attending childcare, elementary school children, and the household members of infested children… An estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age."

School outbreaks of lice are common because children are in close contact with one another and regularly share brushes, hats, towels, earbuds and other personal items, but contrary to popular belief, lice cannot jump from head to head -- actual contact is needed for lice to spread.

While most children don’t begin attending school until age 3, toddlers who are in a daycare setting with multiple ages, as well as children who have older siblings, are at risk of contracting the parasitic insect that makes it home in hair.

Lice Prevention

Doctors and other medical professionals typically tell parents that good hygiene habits are the easiest way to prevent the spread of head lice. Teaching a toddler how to wash his hands and not share brushes and other personal items as well as attempting to help a toddler better understand personal space could help.

But it can be difficult to prevent toddlers from avoiding games and play that put them in direct contact with other children as well as hard to stop them from sharing stuffed animals and other toys that could facilitate an infestation. You can try to keep their personal belongings, like hats, gloves, coats and other outerwear, away from common spaces at daycare. And, you'll also want to talk to your child's childcare provider to understand their policy about lice and ensure that precautions are being taken.

What If My Toddler Has Lice?

While lice may have become more resistant, doctors seem to agree that it's still worth trying an over-the-counter treatment first if your child is at least 2 years old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these treatments are safe for young children, though you should consult your doctor if your child is under the age of 2. Make sure you follow the directions and do a second treatment a week to 10 days later in order to kill any newly hatched lice.