If you’ve ever had head lice as a child growing up, then you know the stress and embarrassment that comes with it. Chances are, someone close to you will also pick up head lice in their lifetime, be it your child, spouse or other relative, starting a vicious cycle of transmission.
It is estimated that as many as six million kids get head lice every single year in the Unites States alone- more than the entire population of many countries.
Head lice can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or medical status, and is not indicative of poor health. They are easily transferred from person to person contact, and can also be transmitted via sharing of bed linens and more. Head lice only live on average 24 hours out of the scalp, so their priority is finding a new host as fast as possible.
Which brings us to how to effectively get rid of them. They are not difficult to get rid of, but you need to emphasize killing of adult lice and not necessarily the eggs (or nits) as many people mistakenly do. Just follow some of the proven tips below and solve your head lice problem in no time!
How to Get Rid of Head Lice – Treatment and Remedies
Starting off the list is the extremely safe and ever beneficial olive oil, which can help cure you of a lice infection over the course of 3 weeks. While there are remedies that claim faster cure rates, the problem occurs if you leave nits to hatch and start the cycle of infection all over again. Olive oil is said to smother the lice so that they are unable to respire. While this wouldn’t affect nits, as they are eggs at this point, they will hatch and grow into adults if you ease up on application. For best results, apply olive oil every 3 days within that 21 day period, preferably before bed and covering your head with a shower cap. The itchiness will be relieved faster than 21 days, but to ensure complete eradication you need to continue application for 3 weeks.
Using A Hair Dryer On High Heat
Heat is a useful tool in getting rid of a head lice infection, especially when it comes to the nits. While heat does kill some adult lice (about 10%), it is exceptionally good at getting rid of nits, eradicating on average 98% of them. Hot air is best utilized days following use of a chemical based agent, but never combined as some of those ingredients may be flammable.
Vinegar is a popular home remedy for killing adult lice, and removing nits by dissolution. This is believed to be due to the presence of acetic acid. To apply, you can either mix with mineral oil (in 1:1 parts) apply to the scalp and leave overnight before washing off, or you can mix with water and pre-soak hair with a dilute solution of it 30 minutes before washing off. It is advised to use vinegar 3 times weekly to eradicate a head lice infestation.
Coconut oil should be a staple in your hair care routine, but often this is not the case. Coconut oil, like olive oil, smothers the adult head lice so that they are unable to respire. For best results, apply coconut oil to the hair and scalp before bed for 5 consecutive days. Then wash off in the mornings. Coconut oil will also help keep hair healthy, and could prevent re-infection from nits if used frequently.
Tea Tree Oil
Treat tree oil is a natural insect repellant and insecticide, making it especially suited to dealing with lice infections. But what makes it more useful is its ovicidal potency, which is its ability to kill eggs that have yet to catch into actual lice. For best results, apply nightly for between 3-7 days if having a current infection, or intermittently following reports of a lice outbreak at your kid’s school or otherwise.
Pyrethrin Based Products
For years, pyrethrins have been the mainstay of lice treatment as prescribed by doctors, but in recent times it has consistently lost potency, becoming weaker and weaker. Pyrethrins act as neurotoxins on lice, disrupting their function and killing them. However, Pyrethrin may become ineffective for killing lice if not properly administered, as missing lice during eradication results in lice remaining that are now immune to the effects of the product. Pyrethrin based products come in the form of creams, shampoos or lotions, all of which are required to be left on the scalp overnight before being washed off.
Pyrethrins may trigger allergic responses in susceptible individuals, so it is a wise idea to test a small portion of skin before full application.
Spinosad is a natural insecticide obtained from bacteria found in soil. One of the more recent discoveries, it was only approved for use in treating lice in 2011, being safe for children 4 years of age and older. It is a prescription only product at this time, but is very effective in getting rid of a head lice infection. To use, massage into scalp and along hairs, leaving on for 10 minutes before washing off. It is almost 200% more effective than permethrin based products today, after a 14 day follow up session to check if lice have been eliminated.
Changing Bed Linens
Even though you may be using treatment, there is a good chance that there are adult lice on your sheets and pillow cases, which can re-infect you or someone else in your home very easily. Be sure to wash all linens in the home while simultaneously treating everyone in the household. This is one of the best ways to ensure eradication.
Wet combing is a relatively simple and cheap alternative to remove lice, although its effectiveness depends on the age of the affected and frequency of the technique. In the simplest terms, wet combing involves use of a fine teeth comb after washing or wetting the hair to remove adult lice that have been temporarily immobilized. It also removes nits, but can be made more effective by combining with an agent that kills the lice and their eggs.
Ivermectin is an extremely effective treatment for head lice and scabies, all from a single dose application. Ivermectin is also extracted from bacteria naturally found in the soil, and is safe for children 6 months of age and up. Follow up at the 2 week period also revealed that more than 75% of patients remained lice free. Ivermectin is also impressive due to the fact that it is not commonly associated with side effects, and they are generally very mild if they do occur.
This is a common ingredient found in many cosmetic products, but can also work to kill head lice. It reportedly blocks the tubes through which lice breathe, and prevent removal of water from their body, leading to accumulation. This dual function is the mechanism behind this product’s action, and is safe for kids over the age of two.
While head lice can be annoying, they do not need to become a burden if taken care of in a timely fashion. Be sure to take care of external sources of reinfection, such as bed linens, and use the treatments as directed and within a few weeks you should be 100% free of an infestation.