Home Remedy for Head Lice
First of all, if you're in need of a home remedy for head lice, let me lend you my condolences.
Head lice treatment is never a fun and exciting time in anyone's life. It is, however, pretty common. There aren't many statistics on the issue but Google reports over 300,000 searches solely on the term "head lice" alone. Knowing how to treat it safely is one thing; knowing how to prevent lice is another. This article will cover both.
There are many types of conventional treatments for lice, such as shampoos and sprays. There are also some dangerous alternative treatments, such as gasoline or kerosene.
But if you're aware of dangers of pesticides you ought to be aware that shampoos and other conventional treatments require using pesticides directly on your or your child's head!
With pesticide usage linking to leukemia, autism, infertility, birth defects, ADHD, Parkinson's, miscarriage and countless types of cancers, it's outrageous to think of applying this poison directly to our skin! (Click here to learn more about this.)
But left untreated, and well...I'll let you Google that one.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on Sustainable Baby Steps have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment when indicated, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always talk to your naturopathic physician about the use of these or any other complimentary modalities. Reading this website denotes your understanding and agreement to our full disclaimer.
Head Lice Information
It's important to know a few things about this problem, before you use a home remedy for head lice.
- Early symptoms of lice include itching behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Don't scratch too much! It can lead to skin irritation and infection.
- Lice do not spread from pets to humans or vice versa (unless maybe your pet is a farm animal). They spread through direct person-to-person contact or indirect contact, such as hats, scarves, clothing, jackets, furniture, bedding, brushes, hair ties, toys and so on.
- The life cycle of head lice if as follows: Nits (eggs) come first and incubate about 7-10 days. After another 10 days or so, female lice can begin hatching approximately 90 eggs over a 30 day lifespan on a host (person). However, off a host (person) live 1-2 days in warm weather (86 degrees F) and 2-4 days in moderate weather (74 degrees F). Nits (eggs) can live off the host for up to 10 days and will not hatch in temperatures cooler than 68 degrees F.
- Do lice jump? Nope. Nor do they fly. But they do crawl from item-to-item or person-to-person.
- The occurance of lice have nothing to do with socioeconomic levels, race or gender according to many studies, but long hair may increase the risk simply because there is more hair for the lice to come into contact with.
- Lice infestations have nothing to do with cleanliness. In fact, "dirty" hair might actually prevent lice since the natural oils in the hair may repel lice.
- Not every home remedy for head lice is valid. Some are pointless, others might just be lucky, some are downright dangerous. Only the ones listed below are backed by science and Nature.
Now that you have some background head lice information, keep those things in mind as we start talkig about your best bet for home remedy for head lice below.
The Best Home Remedy for Head Lice
We know pesticides are dangerous, as are things like gasoline (please don't do that!). But there are also plenty of myths about what actually works. Mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, and so on have all been tried, but which one is best? After all, you don't want to have to do this over and over again.
Below is the very best home remedy for head lice, followed by the best advice on how to prevent lice:
Combing (with Optional Olive Oil Lice Treatment)
Yup, good old combing is the #1 most effective home remedy for head lice.
Actually, it's the best treatment of any kind! Hmm, is it any wonder why popular shampoos still recommend combing? It may just be that their dangerous products aren't even doing the real work; your combing is!
Here's what you'll need for this home remedy for head lice:
- A regular brush
- A sturdy, metal nit comb found at many beauty supply stores, drugstores or online. Avoid plastic if possible as it may bend or break.
- Hair clips, pins or ties to section off the hair. (All of these will need treatment, found below.)
- Olive oil
- A towel to wrap around the shoulders
- A bowl of warm soapy water to rinse the comb
- Some entertainment! Unless nit combing is particularly entertaining for you, I recommend some good movie rentals, games or books to help you and/or your child (or friend) through the process and pass the time quickly.
Once you have those things, here's what you'll get to do with them:
- Start by brushing the hair with a regular brush to remove any tangles without pain. You'll treat this brush so don't put it away yet.
- Next coat the hair with olive oil. Lice treatment with olive oil keeps the hair slick and wet so that it's easier to comb. It *may* help by suffocating lice as well, but does nothing for nits.
- Section the hair with your clips, and taking very small sections as a time and getting as close to the scalp as you can, begin gently pulling the comb through the section of hair several times. This will help to remove lice and nits (nit-picky anyone?). Check closely as you go and rinse the comb well in the soapy water before recombing. Because of the olive oil lice treatment, you may need to stop and wash the comb thoroughly before you continue on.
- When you finish with one section pin it clear away from any uncombed hair and continue on to the next sections. Are you having fun yet?
- After you've finished combing the hair, flush the soapy water down the toilet and use a regular shampoo 2-3 times to remove any oil. (You probably won't need any conditioner after all that oil. One of the "side effects" of an oilve oil lice treatment is healthy, shiny hair!)
- Boil the lice comb and your brush for 15 minutes, or soak for 30 minutes in 100% white vinegar or alcohol, and then wash with hot, soapy water and a toothbrush and rinse well before using the comb on the next family member or putting it away.
IMPORTANT: The entire family should to be checked and treated, just in case. Be sure clean instruments are used for each person. And don't forget you'll be doing this again in 10 days to ensure no nits were left behind that have hatched (10 days will ensure they haven't begun laying their own eggs).
ALSO IMPORTANT: You're not done yet! (You didn't think that was the hard part did you?) In order to really learn how to prevent lice from occuring again, there are a few extra extra steps you get to take.
A Head Lice Tea Tree Oil Treatment
Melaleuca, or "tea tree oil", is an all-natural essential oil derived from the plant, Melaleuca. A "head lice tea tree oil treatment" is recommend because of the oil's insecticidal properties while still being safe for humans if used correctly.
A head lice tea tree oil treatment is NOT a substitute for combing. Even with pesticide shampoos, combing is still necessary.
But tea tree oil and other essential oils (specifically aniseed, cinnamon leaf, thyme, peppermint, and nutmeg) were found in one Icelandic study to be effective when combined in alcohol and followed with an essential oil/vinegar/water rinse the next day. Whether it was the alcohol, the vinegar rinse, or the essential oil mixture that did the trick, the fact remains that it worked!
To make this home remedy for head lice tea tree oil treatment, you'll need:
- 100% quality melaleuca (tea tree) oil...be sure to test for skin sensitivity or allergy, and please choose a quality brand to avoid irritation.
- Vodka or olive oil
- Cotton balls
Mix the 2 ounces of oil with up to 20 drops of melaleuca/tea tree oil (it's usually advised to start with less though, especially for kids or sensitive skin). Dab this into the hair using clean cotton balls (changing them out as you go). Make sure they get tightly sealed in a bag and thrown away.
For an alternative home remedy for head lice, tea tree oil can be mixed with alcohol (vodka works great) and sprayed into the hair. Allow either of these treatments to sit in the hair for at least 12 hours before shampooing. You can easily reapply the acohol/tea tree spray frequently as a way to help prevent re-infestations.
And now for the fun part!
How to Prevent Lice
Knowing how to prevent head lice is actually a two-part solution: 1. Preventing your children from getting them in the first place and 2. Preventing re-infestations in your home. Let's start with #2, preventing re-infestations.
How To Prevent Lice From Reoccurring
It begins with *thoroughly* treating the heads of everyone in your home TWICE - once upon finding the head lice and again 10 days after the first treatment. Yes, everyone. No, that does not include the pets, as head lice don't go after pets, only humans.
After treating everyone's head and before you go back to your happy, lice-free life, you get to treat the entire house (or at least everywhere anyone has been since the infestation may have occurred).
Here's where not to miss:
- Bedding: All sheets, pillow and cases, mattress covers, blankets and anything else on the bed (such as stuffed animals) need to be treated.
- Toys and Stuffed Animals: Hard surfaces will need to be treated, as well as soft surfaces.
- Clothing: Clothes, jackets, hats, scarves, etc that has been worn and anything from the closet or drawers that may have come into contact (directly or indirectly) with what has been worn will need to be treated.
- Furniture: Chairs, couches, mattresses and so on cannot be ignored. Don't forget about the vehicle seats and carseats or boosters!
- Personal Care Items: Combs, brushes, hair accessories, bath towels, and so on will also need your attention.
- Work or School Items: Backpacks, briefcases, desk chairs, jacket hooks, cubby holes, etc should all be cleaned thoroughly.
There are several ways to treat these items using a home remedy for head lice strategy. Choose the best option from the following list:
- Machine washing: Very hot water and some extra detergent will take care of towels, bedding, and other machine washable items that can handle the heat.
- Vacuuming: Thorough, slow vacumming with a strong vacuum is great for furniture, vehicles, etc.
- Soaking or Boiling: Great for hards items such as combs or some toys.
- Heat: Whether it's a hot clothes dryer, a cloth hair dryer or even a hot iron, heat (getting the item to at least 140 degrees F) kills lice and nits.
- Freezing: Lice and eggs will both be killed if frozen overnight.
- Quarantine: No, not people! But for other objects that can't be washed, boiled, thoroughly vacuumed or frozen, storing it in a tightly sealed bag or container for no less than 2 weeks will ensure that all nits and eggs have died.
- Personal space: Talk to the whole family about not sharing personal items or space, especially in schools, at least until any outbreak is under control.
- Hair cutting: If you're desperate for ideas on how to prevent lice...since lice need something to hold onto, short hair does make re-infestation less likely. Make sure the person who is geting the lice is on board with this one though, okay?
How to Prevent Lice from Occurring in the First Place
Total prevention may not be possible. Lice are pesky little buggers after all. But there are a few ideas that might help your home remedy for head lice efforts.
- Keep hair tied up: Long hair comes into contact with more things, so when going to the movies, work or school keeping your hair up, or even wrapped, may help. Shorter hair would also prevent infestation for the same reason.
- Shampoo less often: It's possible that lice avoid natural oils in the hair. Weaning your hair off daily washes and down to once a week may help prevent infestations.
- Maintain personal space: Schools and work environments are most likely to spread lice. Talk to the family about not sharing items or hugging if lice is going around.
- Add essential oils to your shampoo: You can use the ones mentioned about in the tea tree oil head lice treatment information.
- Use essential oils regularly: You can add drops to a spray bottle to mist yourself or dab it on to repel or kill lice. You can also use it in your shampoos and cleaners.
Remember: even if it's not a home remedy for head lice, it's still a lot of work. And it's hardly any fun for kids or adults.
My best home remedy for head lice advice would be to not take it too seriously. Make it as fun as it can be. Laugh, make jokes, learn about it together, listen to music, or watch funny movies as you comb so that at least the experience can be remembered as something other than the worst experience of your family's life.