Head lice are a serious problem in many areas around the world. Lice is most common in schools or colleges and a serious outbreak can lead to weeks of frustration. There are a number of over the counter prescriptions as well as simple home remedies for lice, but not all kill both the eggs and lice to really remedy the situation.
So what can you do to fully treat head lice with something more natural and less poisonous than the standard options that use neurotoxins (which are really a poor remedy for kids) AND kill the eggs so they don’t re-occur?
These 8 home remedy options are worth a solid try and will leave you not only feeling relieved that the lice are under control, but you will feel ok using them on your kids!
What are Lice?
Lice, or a single louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives on human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood bitten from the scalp. Lice are a very common problem, especially for kids. They’re contagious, annoying, and sometimes tough to get rid of but not dangerous.
Lice look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. They lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp until they hatch. Nits look sort of like dandruff, only they can not be removed by brushing or shaking them off. Once the lice eggs hatch they bite and with biting comes itching and scratching which is usually a tale tell sign of a lice infestation.
My poor little guy got lice twice one year while at daycare and it was a pain. Most people think you get lice because you are dirty or don’t have clean hair or a clean living environment. This is not true. Lice isn’t particular about where it goes, it thrives clean hair just as much.
Why are Lice and Nits so Difficult to Get Rid of?
Head lice can be combed or washed out and most people think that is good enough! but unfortunately, the nits (eggs) or much hard to remove and once hatched will just keep the process reoccurring. See the life cycle of a head louse below.
This means whether the adults are gone, the eggs can still survive, breed and lay eggs once again. This cycle happens about every 7 days or so! The eggs (nits) are stuck onto the hair like glue and need a special treatment to remove which is different than the adults.
You can have eggs, adults, and moulted louse skins all in your hair at any time once you have been diagnosed with lice. For a child, this can just be annoying and itchy, but for the adults that may have caught these critters, it can be much much harder to get rid of in thicker, courser adult hairs.
If a child has been infected with lice and comes into the home they can easily spread lice to other members of the family. From bedding, clothes, or even hugs, lice can move from person to person fairly quickly. So developing a sure fire way to get rid of these itchy bugs is of the essence.
8 Home Remedies for Head Lice
There are a number of home remedies to remove head lice AND their eggs that have proven to be effective, and they are incredibly easy to try. They also involve a large number of items that you can easily find around your house, and if you don’t have them, you can quickly purchase them at your local store or online for fairly inexpensively.
My suggestion is to use multiple options below. What kills adults doesn’t always kill or get ride of the nits- so using a few remedies below in sequence is ideal and will guarantee the elimination of BOTH adults and eggs. Take it from a mom who has been through this!
Before you begin the process of removing the head lice, be sure to be in a sterile and clean environment to begin with. Preferably one that is easy to clean up after. The last thing you want is the lice to be spread.
1. Use a Simple Lice Comb
By far the best way to get rid of head lice and eggs is simply using a lice comb to comb them out of your child’s hair. This way requires no treatments or medications, but it can often be long and tedious to spend hours combing your child’s hair. You can also remove the lice one by one with a pair of tweezers (ugh right?!).
Take the lice comb (or rat tail comb if you don’t have access to a lice comb) and section off the dry hair in quadrants. Each area then, slowly comb through the hair all the way from root to tip. If you see things falling off onto the ground- that is ok, just remember to clean afterwards.
You can do this on dry or wet hair- it was easier for us on dry hair- but up to you.
Tip: We brought folding chairs into our shower and did it in there for easy clean up. Plus if you use multiple remedies to get ride of the lice, its much easier to do in the shower!
2. Tea Tree Oil
There are a number of herbal shampoos that you can use to remove lice from your child’s hair, and these products usually feature tea tree oil or many other kinds of natural oils (peppermint is also popular). These are usually not as effective as other treatments as lice can stay underwater for over 8 hours! But they are worth a try for a first pass to just relieve some of the itch and adult lice.
What I also do, is create a spray with the tea tree oil (kid safe/friendly essential oil) and water and spritz that on the hair before you comb through it. This seems to help get out both adults and eggs. Just be cautious not to spray directly onto your child scalp or it could cause additional irritation.
3. Suffocate The Lice
You can use mayonnaise, coconut oil, or olive oil on your child’s scalp as a way to suffocate and get rid of head lice while also loosen their eggs.
These emollients are applied and left on the scalp throughout the night, and washed out in the morning to ensure that any lice that have been smothered by the oily substances are thoroughly washed out of the hair.
Use the lice comb on the hair before rinsing off and you find it much more successful and easier to wash out. Plus this way it gets all the loosened eggs out.
4. Use an Over the Counter Shampoo
Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel is a good preventative shampoo that is free of parabens, sulfates, harsh chemicals and toxins. It uses a proprietary blend of organic Rosemary, Citronella, Peppermint, Lavender, Tea Tree and Geranium oils helps prevent lice and get rid of them.
This is really just one home remedy for lice that should be used with others to treat the eggs as well. This is also good to use if your child has previously had lice and you don’t want it to come back. Prevention is half the battle here.
5. Applying vinegar
Vinegar is one of my favorite cleaning agents and for good reason- it works! We used apple cider vinegar on my sons hair and it worked well but the regular white vinegar is ok too. Thoroughly douse your child’s hair with vinegar and leave for 15 minutes to allow the vinegar to kill the lice and loosen the glue that holds the nits on. Again- try to avoid the vinegar and scalp from coming into contact for longer than a few seconds or so. Apply the white conditioner treatment (below) afterward for soft, clean lice free hair.
6. the white conditioner treatment
This is the ideal procedure to undertake after using either the spray, the shampoo, or the vinegar. Apply a thick, white conditioner (it makes it easier to see the nits and lice against white). Using a lice comb, section the hair and carefully comb, rinsing or wiping each comb-full of conditioner, nits and lice onto a towel. Keep combing until you can’t see any more eggs or lice in the conditioner. Repeat after seven days just to be on the safe side that they are all gone.
7. Use Heat
Lice and their eggs need moisture to thrive, so another way to kill and remove head lice is to dehydrate them. A hair dryer set on hot heat will work well. About 20 min should be sufficient to kill them.
You can also you a flat iron or curling iron to go over the hair shaft and kill any remaining eggs that you might not be able to see. This is a good step to take after the shampoo cleansing and conditioning,
8. Vacuum Them Out
Yes really- using the vacuum can actually help to ensure you catch all the little nits and lice hidden in the hair that might be stuck. If your vacuum has settings or speeds- set it to slow and attach the hose nozzle. Very gently place the hose nozzle at the base of the hair and suction it while combing. The lice should fall into the hose.
The gentle suction of the hose will help to loose the attached nits and grab any adults. This is one of the simplest and truly effective home remedies for lice you can try, especially if you don’t have any of the other ingredients around. Professional lice removers use a vacuum and comb as well.
Prescription Treatment As a LAST resort
There is a hair lotion that contains a treatment that attacks head lice, and this prescription is easy to obtain. Ulfesia is the name of the treatment, and is supposed to work by attacking the respiratory spiracles of the head lice, which suffocates and kills them effectively. Ulfesia is a non-pesticide prescription treatment for head lice. It requires applying the lotion to the hair, leaving it in the hair for a few minutes, and washing the hair thoroughly. Once a week has past, it is required that the lotion is reapplied to ensure that all head lice have been killed.
Please note: I have seen a few home remedy sites recommend using dog shampoo on your child’s head, due to the fact that the shampoo contains a high amount of anti-lice agents that will attack and kill head lice. This shampoo can actually damage the child’s scalp, and should never be applied to the head of a child!!
How To Prevent Lice From Coming Back
Lice require a living source to survive. They eat blood and use their little sticky feet to hold to hair near the scalp. Ick I know. So without a human body around, they can’t survive for too long. A few simple home remedies for lice and prevention tips should keep these guys at bay.
- Take all bedding, pillows, towels, and clothes and wash in hot water and in then in dryer for 2 heat cycles.
- Place brushes, combs, and other hair tools (that are not electric) into a mixture of vinegar and water for 24 hours to completely clean and sanitize. You can add a drop of tea tree oil into the mixture as well.
- Wipe down any items that came into contact with the hair such as car seats, recliner chairs, etc.
- Wash hair monthly in a mixture of conditioner and essential oils such as tea tree or peppermint to keep lice away. Use lice comb to check for any little nits every so often to catch them early if you see them!
- Be aware of itchy scalps in kids and/or their friends!
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If you have any additional home remedies for lice, nits, or other itchy tips or questions be sure to leave a comment, we love to hear from you!