98% of head lice have developed a resistance to chemical treatments

In news that will no doubt cause parents across the globe to itch in fury – a new study has found that common chemical treatments no longer get rid (of the majority) of head lice.

Research released by the Journal of Medical Entomology explains that 98 per cent of nits have developed a strong resistance to over-the-counter treatments.

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The study

This comes after researchers in the U.S. analysed more than 14,000 head lice, which were collected from 479 people from 48 states, between 7 July 2013 to 11 May 2015.

They found that 98 per cent of these nits were able to develop gene mutations, which helps them become resistant to chemical treatments.

What’s more (and supporting the recent study), Parapro have more recently reported that a nit treatment which was developed in the 1980s, called Nix, and was ‘100 percent effective’ but is now only 25 percent effective.

These findings are certainly giving us the itch.

Why are head lice becoming resistant?

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Chemical treatments don’t kill all head lice, and this may mean that the surviving lice and their offspring develop an immunity to the concoctions you buy in shops.

“We’ve suspected for a long time that head lice are becoming resistant to these commonly used insecticides, because we continually hear about people experiencing treatment failures,” medical entomologist Dr Cameron Webb, from the University of Sydney, tells

“It’s no surprise given the anxiety many parents have about head lice.

“We’re quick to use these treatments to control the infestation and the side effect of that is we’re increasing the chances that insecticide resistance will develop.”

What are head lice?


Head lice are tiny wingless insects about the size of a sesame seed. The eggs are a little smaller and cling firmly to strands of hair, and they take 7-10 days to hatch.

They live and breed in the hair of humans (and animals) for approximately 35 days. Head lice feed on blood by biting the scalp, but they are not dangerous. They cause itching and, at worst, can cause skin irritation.

Head lice is spread by sharing personal items such as brushes and combs.

However, research has proved that sharing hats does not spread head lice.

They are also capable of Tarzan-like swinging from one strand of hair to another if children are in close proximity. This if often the case in the first few years of schooling.

4 ways you can help prevent head lice

plait hair

1. Always put up long hair

First step is containing that long hair by putting it all up in a tight pony, plait or bun. The less strands of hair available for those pesky little bugs to swing from, the less chance they have of grabbing hold.

2. Hair spray

Once the hair is up and away, douse it in hair spray. The theory is that the hair becomes too sticky for the nits to take hold of, but this method isn’t flawless.

3. It doesn’t matter if your hair is dirty or clean

Some suggest dirty hair attracts lice. While others claim it’s clean hair. However, in truth, head lice gravitate to either, regardless of cleanliness. However, we do recommend after washing your child’s hair and combing through it with a nit comb.

4. Tea Tree Oil/Lavender Oil

A couple of drops of tea tree oil in your child’s shampoo or some lavender oil around their hair line is said to deter head lice.

Research has investigated the effectiveness of these oils, and while they don’t completely repel, they do aid in deterring the head lice from habituating in a child’s hair.

How to get rid of hair lice

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1. Invest in a nit comb

If you use a conditioner it’s crucial you get a quality fine-toothed nit comb and brush out the eggs and louse. Yes, it’s frustrating but it’s necessary.


Even if you don’t spot any live head lice, give your children’s hair a once over with conditioner and a good nit comb every month or two. This will remove any eggs that you may have missed with the naked eye and help in keeping them away.


Apparently, they can’t stand the heat! So up the ante on the blow dryer. 

But at the end of the school term, whether your child brought head lice home or not, don’t feel like it was a personal choice.

Nits will literally take hold of any head they can, whether your child is wearing Versace of Vinnies, it cannot be helped. So just keep doing your best.

On a less itchy note – did you know the Healthy Mummy has a Healthy Kids Cookbook full of great recipes and ideas to make for school?

For yummy and healthy lunch box snack ideas check out our Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes Cookbook for over 100 great lunch box ideas. 


Ensuring our children’s lunch boxes are filled with healthy, easy to prepare foods that the kids will actually eat is really important.

A school lunch box can potentially make up to 30-50% of our child’s daily food intake so, we want to make them count.

This book makes preparing lunch boxes a breeze. The recipes are quick and easy to make, offering maximum nourishment and delicious flavours that the kids will actually enjoy. Plus, many of the recipes use leftovers, to save time and money.

We are certain this cookbook will make preparing lunch boxes a breeze. To learn more about this cookbook or to PREORDER your copy click here.