Every parent dreads the thought of their child coming home from school with a case of head lice. You can’t understate the yuck factor there.
Fortunately, there are some head lice home remedies that can alleviate the problem. But, be prepared for a rather lengthy commitment to eradicating these pesky creatures.
What are head lice?
In case you didn’t know, head lice are tiny parasites that hide under hair on the scalp where they feed on blood and reproduce quickly and in numbers that make them very difficult to eliminate. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, they are found on roughly 10 percent of all children and they are spread socially in close quarters like schools and locker rooms.
Shane Lee, a parent and religious school teacher in Hoboken, N.J., has become a de facto expert on head lice. Her three kids have each gotten it three times, along with many of her friends’ children. She’s constantly on lice patrol at home and in the classroom to detect the pests as quickly as possible. Lice travel from one person to another by crawling between people, clothing, hairbrushes and hats.
“Lice can survive about 30 days on people,” says Lee. “One louse can lay 7-10 eggs at a time which then hatch and lay eggs of their own. So, one bug can cause a huge infestation if you don’t find it right away.”
Lice can be hard to spot unless you are looking for them (they are about the size of a sesame seed and are brownish, tan or gray in color). But Lee doesn’t just look; she uses a special metal comb, like this one made by Fairy Tales.
If nits or lice are found, whether it’s two or two hundred, combing them out is the best way to get rid of them.
“There are products like Nix that are available but they are expensive, full of chemicals, and don’t always work,” says Lee. “And they still require combing. So once you have the comb, you can do it on your own with items that are probably already in your home.”
Lee recommends using a heavy conditioner like Pantene, olive oil, or mayonnaise to coat the hair. This smothers the bugs and prevents them from moving when you start combing, and also helps to kill the nits. Once the hair is covered, use clips to create sections and — starting at the top — comb through every bit.
“Imagine the strands are boxes, and comb over, under, and to the right and left,” recommends Lee.
The comb will drag through, pulling conditioner and lice and nits with it. Wipe the residue on a paper towel and keep going until you have gone over every bit of scalp and hair. If you are using oil, leave it on for 15 minutes before combing, and dip the comb in hot water to remove residue. When you finish, rinse the conditioner out, wash hair with dish soap, rinse and then comb again. This helps the eggs that remain to let go of the hair shaft.
When you have lice in your home, it’s important to wash all sheets and towels in hot water and to clean well. But, save most of your energy for combing the hair because lice live and reproduce on people, not things. Missing just one louse or nit in the hair will start the cycle all over again, and some are too small to get no matter how carefully you comb. The process must be repeated every two to three days for a month in order to ensure you’ve gotten all of them.
After the hair is clear, try using coconut or tea tree hair products every day. Both scents are reported to keep lice away.
Have other tips for head lice home remedies? Leave us a note in the comments below.