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Arizona Is Crawling With 'Super Lice' Resistant To Over-The-Counter Shampoos

lice bug
(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
A male louse under magnification.

Whenever children head back to school, a pest crawls back into the spotlight. Head lice are well known, but trying to figure out how to get rid of them has many parents scratching their heads.

That’s because the lice of today are resistant to many of the over-the-counter lice shampoos parents have relied on for years. In the most recent data from the Journal of Entomology, 100 percent of lice tested in Arizona and other states were these so-called “super lice.”

Dawn Gouge, an entomology professor at the University of Arizona, said popular lice shampoos like Rid and Nix haven’t been very effective for more than a decade.

“And the longer the useless products are on the shelf, and the more they’re relied upon, the more the resistance issue will emerge,” she said. “And it just gets compounded over time.”

There are super shampoos to combat these super lice, however, with an active ingredient called benzyl alcohol.

“But you have to be willing to go to your pediatrician and ask specifically, by name, ‘I want this,” Gouge said, who has used a benzyl alcohol product on her own child.

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When senior field correspondent Stina Sieg was 22, she moved to the desert. She hasn’t been the same since. At the time, the Northern California native had just graduated from college and was hankering for wide-open spaces. So she took a leap and wrote to nearly every newspaper in New Mexico until one offered her a job. That’s how she became the photographer for a daily paper in the small town of Silver City. And that’s when she realized how much she loved storytelling. In the years since, the beauty of having people open up and share their stories — and trust her to tell them — has never gotten old to Sieg. Before coming to KJZZ, Sieg was also a writer and photographer at newspapers in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and the Smoky Mountains town of Waynesville, North Carolina. She always had her hand in public radio, too, including hosting Morning Edition on a fill-in basis at WNCW in North Carolina. It’s still the best music station she’s found. When she’s not reporting, chances are Sieg is running, baking, knitting or driving to some far-flung town deep in the desert — just to see what it looks like.