Lice Activity Increased 20 Percent in Bay Area: Report

Effective medication available if over-the-counter preparations don't work

A lice treatment organization says there is an increase in treatments in the San Francisco Bay Area but there's no reason to panic.

Lice Clinics of America reported Tuesday that its Bay Area clinics have seen about 20 percent more bookings and treatments in January 2019 compared to January 2018.

The organization, self-described as "urgent care for lice removal," has a total of eight locations in the Bay Area where professionals kills head lice and eggs, especially "super lice," which are more resistant to over-the-counter treatments.

No serious medical conditions are transmitted by the lice, said Dr. Bernard Cohen, a professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

"So it’s a social disaster, it’s not very pleasant, but nobody’s ever died from head-lice infestation," he said.

Cohen said he thought the most common cause of persistent infestation or re-infestation remained a failure to treat everyone in the family and other close contacts. An over-the-counter treatment should be used at least a few times spaced by a week or 10 days before it is declared a failure.

But if it does not work, and lice are still present, there are prescription medicines that are effective and safe, among them ivermectin, spinosad and benzyl alcohol, he said. A pediatrician or nurse practitioner should also make sure that your child actually does have lice, he said.

Some parents wrongly believe their children have lice when they mistake scales on the scalp or other skin conditions for lice eggs, called nits, or do not realize that the nits are dead.

And if your children do get lice, it is not a sign that they are not well cared for, he said.

In fact, he said, “Head lice like you clean.”

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