02/29/2016 AT 02:40 PM EST
A strain of "super lice" that is resistant to over-the-counter treatments has been reported in 25 states. Here's what you need to know about the outbreak and how you can protect your children:
What are super lice?
Super lice, like regular lice, are parasitic insects that can live in the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes of humans and feed on blood. Due to a genetic mutation, super lice are resistant to pyrethroids, the family of insecticides contained in common over-the-counter treatments used to kill lice.
Where are super lice a problem?
A national study
found the treatment-resistant lice in 25 states in the U.S.
How do super lice spread?
Much like regular lice, super lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person, the CDC reports
. Head lice move by crawling and cannot hop or fly. Lice can also spread by sharing clothing or hair accessories recently worn or used by a person with lice, although this is less common. Dogs, cats and other pets cannot spread head lice.
How do you know if your child has super lice?
The symptoms of head lice include the feeling of something moving in the hair, an itchy scalp, irritability and difficulty sleeping. The only difference between regular lice and super lice infestation is the response to treatment. If your child still has lice after a complete over-the-counter treatment, they may be infested with a resistant strain.
How are lice and super lice treated?
The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends parents and caregivers use over-the-counter treatments unless resistance has been confirmed in other cases in the community. Instructions on the package should be followed exactly and all clothing, linens and toys used by the infected person should be washed in hot water or dry cleaned. If the lice are treatment-resistant, a pediatrician can prescribe another form of treatment that has been proven effective against super lice.
How are lice and super lice prevented?
Because head lice spread so easily in schools, playgrounds and daycares they are difficult to prevent. The AAP recommends teaching children not to share hats, combs or other items that come in contact with hair. Children should also be checked for lice if there is an outbreak in their school – even if they aren’t complaining of itching.