It’s a yucky subject, but it must be addressed. Head lice: those creepy, crawly, tiny terrors that spread like wildfire. If your children bring home these most unwelcome visitors, it’s okay to take a moment to freak out for three seconds, but don’t stay in that emotional place of darkness and despair. Head lice are not dangerous; they are not hazardous to your child’s health; and, believe it or not, lice are not a reflection on the cleanliness of your home or your offspring.
Lice prefer clean, uncrowded heads, and the CDC estimates that up to 12 million people per year become infested with head lice. If you and your household are among the unlucky 12 million, don’t fret. Save this article for a quick reminder of 12 ways to get rid of lice.
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Maybe you’re the proactive type of parent. Maybe you have already experienced the misery that is picking nits for days on end. Perhaps your daughter has the longest, most beautiful blonde hair you’ve ever seen; therefore, the thought of lice terrifies you. Or maybe you’re one of the lucky parents who, like me, recently received the dreaded “a case of lice has been detected in your child’s class” letter.
Whatever the reason, if you’d like to prevent lice, there are options other than never washing your child’s hair. My favorite is diluting a little tea tree oil in a spray bottle and misting my girl’s hair every morning before school. This way, we can wash our hair but still feel comfortable going to school in the morning. Hair spray also works if you haven’t yet discovered the awesomeness that is essential oils.
Protecting the Innocent
If your son/daughter comes home from his/her first day of third grade with more than new friends and homework, resist the urge to wash your own hair. Lice prefer clean hair and scalps; so one of the first lines of defense you and uninfected family members have is to keep your hair oily.
It’s not glamorous, but it is necessary. Getting rid of lice, no matter what method you choose, takes lots and lots of time. Heads must be checked over and over again for infestation. Adult lice, nymphs, and nits must all be picked from the hair and scalp. Every strand of hair must be examined. Every bed, couch, rug, chair, pillow, or stuffed animal that came in contact with the infected person must be cleaned. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family as you try to battle the lice that invaded your home is to be patient with all the tasks that must be done. Give yourself some grace and make another pot of coffee.
First we’ll explore some natural/chemical free methods to remove lice before moving on to the hardcore/toxins options.
Yep. Good ‘ole full fat, real mayonnaise. Slather it on and top it off with a shower cap. Wear it overnight to suffocate all the lice. In the morning, after you wash out the mayo, go through hair with a fine-toothed comb, pulling out dead lice and nits that are attached to the hair shaft. Also check for any live lice that might have survived.
Olive Oil or Petroleum Jelly
Use the same concept as mentioned above with the mayonnaise. Pour olive oil or spread petroleum jelly all over your scalp and hair, working it into roots and all the way through the tips. Put on a shower cap and let it sit overnight. Wash to remove the oils and your hair should be extremely soft and slippery. Not only will this method kill some of the lice by suffocation but it will make the hair more slippery and the eggs will come loose more easily.
This is a last resort for most folks, but it sure is effective. By cutting hair short, you eliminate the breeding ground, and you make it easier on yourself because there is less length to look through while combing. With shorter hair, you will also use less of the over-the-counter lice-killing products. Talk it over with your child before you force them into a haircut. It will take longer, but it is possible to rid long hair of lice.
Now, on to the chemical stuff.
There are a variety of over-the-counter chemical products that are very effective in killing lice at all lifecycle stages. Brand names such as RID, Nix, Clear Lice, and LiceMD are all widely available at drugstores and supermarkets. Make sure to read labels carefully if you are worried about allergic reactions to the chemicals. Also make sure to read the instructions carefully so that you know how to safely and accurately use the products. Do not wash hair with lice shampoo more than the recommended amount to avoid skin irritation or damage to hair.
After washing the hair in whichever of the above methods you’ve chosen, next is the most tedious of the lice-fighting tasks: removing nits and eggs from the head. There are several ways to remove them all, including multiple washings and the aid of a lice comb.
Rinsing hair with vinegar prior to combing for nits helps break down the sticky substance that attaches them to the hair. Vinegar makes it easier to pull the eggs out, and you must get the eggs out.
Lengthy fingernails can sometimes be more effective than fine-toothed combs at picking eggs off hair shafts. Gross? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. At some point in the battle against lice ,you will probably decide you’re going to do whatever it takes to get rid of the pesky bugs, even if it means picking them out by hand.
Redbox, Netflix, or Amazon Instant Video
This doesn’t do much for getting rid of lice directly, but it sure does help you and your kids pass the time more easily if you get to watch a fun movie while you spend hours going through their hair.
Once treatment has begun on your child, you can turn your attention to the rest of the house. Lice are fond of anything they can cling to, and this includes stuffed animals, furniture, and carpet. So this will be your worst spring cleaning nightmare come true.
If your washer can run a cycle with water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit, use it. Put every washable thing that might have come into contact with the infected person in the washer and turn it up as hot as it will go. On newer machines, this is called the sanitize cycle. If you are worried about something that can’t go in the washing machine, check out the next tip.
If you don’t have a washer with a sanitize cycle, put all bedding, rugs, pillows, and stuffed animals that my have come in contact with lice in big black trash bags and let them sit for two weeks. If you think about it, move the bags outside into direct sunlight during the day. This should suffocate/overheat any living lice or eggs.