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Natural Remedies for Head Lice


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Natural Remedies for Head LiceMy husband and I discovered head lice in our teenagers' long hair. My youngest is 13 and has apparently not been doing a good job of washing or brushing his hair. His head was full of lice and nits. His older brother was better but not unscathed. It has been a few years since our last outbreak so I did some quick research online to make sure I was treating the infestation correctly. Here is what I discovered.

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On a human head, lice can live for a full month, hatching wave after wave of new generations. Shampoo and conditioner can help to prevent an initial infestation but won't be enough to eliminate them alone. Lice have been shown to survive through two thorough shampooings or immersed under water for hours. The adult lice blend into hair very well as do the sticky tiny light colored oval shaped eggs (nits). They resemble dandruff but won't fall off the hair when brushed, only with a fine toothed comb. Removing these eggs before they hatch is key to controlling the outbreak.

There is a bewildering array of medications at the drugstore for treating lice. The medication we used (Rid) is made from chrysanthemum flowers and kills off the adults, leaving the nits to be removed with careful combing. Unfortunately, overuse of these medications has caused resistant strains of lice, so you may have to try a different formulation for your area.

The kit also came with a combing gel and a spray for our furniture. As far as I can tell, both of these other products are not very necessary or effective. Lice cannot survive long away from the human body, no more than 24 hours. The furniture spray appeared to be mostly alcohol. We used it on the fabric furniture after vacuuming the living room furniture entirely. A sheet or towel to cover the backrest would have been just as effective, as the boys could reinfect any of the surfaces. Keeping their heads from contacting the couch was our best remedy.

Other than personal items like a cuddle toy, most clothing and furniture should not need to be treated. We washed all our bedding and any hats or hoodies that had been recently worn. When our children were small, we would take a garbage bag and pack up any stuffed animals, pillows or other soft toys. We would tie them up and place them into the garage for two weeks, the suggested length of time to ensure no lice remained. They can also be killed by high heat (5 minutes at 130 degrees F) if the items can stand a hot dryer for that long.

We used up the combing agent quickly and it didn't seem to work any better than anything else. We still had nits after a couple of days. Many treatments use conditioner or mayonnaise as a combing agent, often after having it sit or even with a hot hair dryer. Curling or flat irons have been suggested to be effective at killing off the lice and nits as well. As far as I can tell, any of the combing agents are basically making it easier to get through the hair. There could be an added benefit of making the nits less sticky so they can be washed away.

The best preventative we have found is tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner. We get ours from Trader Joe's but you can buy a version from most brands or even make your own with a little bit of tea tree or cinnamon oil. I have them leave the conditioner on their hair for about 5 minutes before rinsing it out. They have also sat in the bathtub with conditioner and a lice comb but it is most effective to have another person comb it out.

We still found nits this morning, almost a week from when we discovered it. They are much reduced though, so I hope that we are on top of treating these pests. I used the flat iron on my oldest, in hopes it would kill off any eggs that I might have missed in the combing process.

I'd love to hear your own advice on how to treat lice naturally. Tell me in the feedback below.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 969 Posts
April 24, 20161 found this helpful

This is a tried and true method, too. Use mayonnaise, that is right.

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April 25, 20161 found this helpful

For killing lice and nits (their eggs) the flat iron for hair straightening will work as well as a curling iron, it is the heat that kills them.

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April 25, 20161 found this helpful

Coconut oil

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April 25, 20161 found this helpful

Our school nurse told me to check online to find a safer alternative than allowing chemicals (store lice treatment) to be used for my child. The winning answer: Listerine! Soak your hair in Listerine (amber-colored store brand), wrap in plastic wrap or a shower cap and leave in for 2 hours. Immediately wash hair afterwards.

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Use Listerine every other day. It kills the live lice. The nits hatch within 2 days so we kept up the Listerine treatment every other day for about a week. Then we used Listerine once on the weekend for a while, just to make sure. Any time we heard of an outbreak at school, we'd use the Listerine treatment, just for good measure. Use coconut shampoo and conditioner. We've read lice don't care for the smell! Later I read to use SUAVE-brand coconut shampoo and conditioner. That's cheapest and what we had used anyway.

My daughter had very thick, very long hair. Mine was shoulder length and shorter. I had to nit-comb my own hair, and it was tedious combing/sectioning her hair every other night, but the Listerine treatments worked! After that one incident, we learned that lice easily transfer from desks or other children when long hair sweeps past any other child. That was when my daughter started wearing ponytails and braids a lot!

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I agree with bagging stuffed toys or tossing in a dryer. No worries with the carpets, etc. I almost suggested my wonder-treatment of table salt sprinkled over the carpets, left in for a couple days, then vacuumed. The salt dries out the little bodies and they die --- then I remembered that's my home treatment for FLEAS, not LICE! :) Best of luck and don't spend lots of $$ for lice treatments!

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
September 11, 20160 found this helpful

Unhappy memories! My daughter, now 32, brought it home twice. We had to bring plastic lawn bags to school to store coats in, as it was spreading in the coat closets. Make sure your children do not share combs, brushes, hair accessories or hats. Lice have become resistant to many treatments.

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Schools used to have a "no nits" policy, but not anymore. In some schools they can still attend with active lice. Picking the nits out is essential. I did it every day for at least a month.

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April 25, 20161 found this helpful

I have goats,and while I haven't seen a lice infestation yet,I'm told that food-grade diametaceous earth will kill them (the lice,not the goats). It's all natural and safe,so I don't know why it wouldn't work in people.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
April 25, 20161 found this helpful

No advice from me, Jess. It seems you are doing all the right things. I would mention that head lice (Pediculosis capitis) usually lay their eggs along the hair shaft at places not extremely close to the scalp. It might well be that daily use of the flat iron for a couple weeks could be your best shot at stopping re infestation.

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Your sons are fortunate to have such a caring and informed mother. If they are a bit vain (as most teenage boys are), they might would faint at the ancient Egyptian cure for lice. Shave their heads! Now, readers will know why most all hieroglyphics depict everyone wearing wool wigs.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
April 26, 20160 found this helpful

We went on a cruise several years ago and discovered a lice outbreak right before. We shaved both boys heads then. I think that might be the start of their long hair journey, actually. :)

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