If you suddenly discover your hair has been invaded by lice, then that’s definitely not a nice feeling, we can all agree upon that. The horror of seeing your body invaded by itchy and stubborn little parasites historically associated with filth and disease can be matched by few other horrors. Treating this condition as soon as possible and getting rid of them for good is therefore an understandable priority for anyone who has to go through this ordeal. We’ve put together a short list of home remedies for lice that really work and that you can create easily in your home in order to treat this problem naturally. But first, let’s take a look at what causes the lice infestation in the first place and at the mechanisms behind it.
What Causes Lice Infestation in Humans
First of all, just to be clear, we should say that head lice (or hair lice) and body lice (or pubic lice, though they inhabit the whole body and clothes) are separate species which can afflict human beings. The two species are indeed similar and they can breed when forced by laboratory conditions, but do not meet in natural settings, since each sticks to its own habitat (area of the human body). The most common lice infestations nowadays are with head lice, and children rather than adults are affected. According to statistics, six to 12 million kids in the U.S. alone get head lice each year, especially through contact with large communities of children or by sharing housing in summer camps and so on.
Contact with other people (especially children) is therefore the biggest enabler of lice transmission. The growing popularity of group selfies has also led to a growth in lice infestation cases, since people lean their heads closer together for the photo, allowing the small parasites to migrate from one scalp to another. Another common cause is the lack of proper hygiene, but this one is true more in a historical context than today. Traditionally, the poor who couldn’t afford proper hygiene and extra changes of clothes were a more common target for lice compared to the people in the upper classes. Sadly, this association has led to a type of shaming that still goes on today: who wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit they are currently struggling with a lice situation? People may then make assumptions about improper hygiene and that would be just embarrassing.
The truth is that lice spread mainly through contact and closeness with other humans; no matter how clean you usually are and how unlikely you thought this occurrence may be for you. Everyone is likely to contract lice at least once in their lifetime, especially during childhood or when they have children of their own. Also, there has been talk of a certain increase in the difficulty of removal, due to the fact that over the counter solutions seem to be not that efficient anymore, probably after the insects have become more adapted to resist them. This is also the reason for which some critics say that natural and home remedies for lice aren’t that effective and that people should go straight for the commercial or prescription treatments. Still, we think you shouldn’t give up just yet: whenever you or someone you know are dealing with lice, try our home remedy suggestions first and we promise they will work like a charm.
Top 5 Home Remedies for Lice
The main challenge when treating head lice is getting rid of both the insects and their eggs (known as nits). If you fail to destroy the eggs completely, the lice problem will return at the next hatch, in about two weeks since you thought you were lice-free.
- Applying gas on the affected scalp and hair – This is considered the best option for a shock therapy, as it will kill the bugs in your hair instantly. You should wash your hair with shampoo, then simply apply liquid gas (the kind you fill up your car with) on the whole scalp area and cover up your head with a shower cap or a damp towel for 10 minutes or so, to allow the gas to do the killing. Then, simply wash it off by applying shampoo again. The good news is that this treatment isn’t damaging to your hair at all, and that it kills the bugs effectively, leaving you to deal only with some nits afterwards. The bad news is that it may sting a little if you have a sensitive scalp, and that the smell is pretty strong and can cause dizziness.
- Nitpicking and combing – Another tried and tested method which people have been using for centuries to get rid of lice infestations is the so-called lice comb, with very narrow gaps, which is able to effectively comb out the nits. This isn’t so much of a remedy as a mechanical action which is mandatory to perform in association with virtually any treatment option you may choose. It’s best if someone else does it for the person suffering from the lice infestation, since a view from above allows you to see better and not miss a single nit.
- Using a herbal anti-lice shampoo – Such a shampoo is easily found in most drugstores and pharmacies and sold as an over-the-counter natural remedy for lice. Shampoos like RID contain pyrethrum, an extract derived from chrysanthemum flowers, which attacks the bug’s nervous systems. After the initial wash, followed of course by a thorough combing for destroying the nits (eggs), you should use the shampoo again after 7-10 days to take care of any left-over freshly hatched lice.
- Applying an olive oil hair mask overnight – Another treatment option which should be both effective and pleasant, not to mention nourishing for your head and scalp as well, the olive oil mask is a recent remedie that most experts swear by. Simply apply a generous quantity of oil to your entire scalp and hair and put a shower cap on tightly. Leave it overnight and the lice will suffocate and die, while the nits will be easier to comb out due to the oil’s smoothness. If you find olive oil too drippy and you’d prefer a creamier consistency, feel free to use mayonnaise instead, it works just as well.
- Rubbing the scalp with Listerine or white vinegar (or both) – A great alternative to the harsh gas treatment described above is to liberally apply Listerine or vinegar or even a mix of both to the affected person’s scalp. They work in a similar way, by suffocating and effectively killing the lice with their corrosiveness, while also giving your scalp one of the most thorough cleanses it experienced in a while. Listerine is also rumored to be efficient against those bugs which have proven to be lice shampoo resistant for a mysterious reason, so keep it in mind if you notice the special shampoo doesn’t seem to work. There’s no need to worry about the safety of these substances for your own health, since Listerine is harmless, and vinegar is actually helpful as a hair and scalp treatment, preventing hair loss and promoting shine and softness. As with the other home remedies for lice presented above, this option too requires you to reapply it after a week and to manually remove the nits immediately after rinsing.
Further Advice to Keep Lice Away
It’s important to keep in mind that most home remedies for lice need to be used in conjunction with each other in order to guarantee a complete removal of those parasites. This is especially true for the combing action, which needs to accompany all the other substances which you apply to your hair and scalp in order to get rid of the already hatched bugs or in order to dislocate the nits making them easier to comb. Whatever treatment option you choose, you still need to not skip the thorough combing, performed on wet hair and immediately after rinsing the treatment (gas, oil, mayo, vinegar, Listerine, special lice shampoo etc.). If you’re suffering from an infestation with body lice, the treatments are similar, just that they’re much easier to apply and to work. Wash the affected areas with a lice shampoo and you should be free of the parasites immediately after.
As far as prevention goes, there isn’t that much you can do, except maybe for avoiding to lean in too close, head to head, with people whom you suspect may be lice carriers. For instance, if you’re a teacher or a supervisor in a kid’s camp, you can be sure that there’s at least one person affected by lice and soon there will be many more. If you are a parent of a child preparing to go to a summer camp, then just make sure you have plenty of Listerine and lice shampoo available for the return, that’s all we’re saying. Oh, and invest in a good comb as well. Chances are you won’t get through the first 10 years with a child without at least once round of lice, but don’t worry: things are totally under control with these home remedies for lice. Don’t panic, breathe in and remember that it happens to the best of us and it will probably take you 2 tries to get rid of the bugs for good.
Tips for Helping Children with Lice
Having head lice is hard enough, but having a child who gets head lice is one of the most annoying, gross, and frustrating things that can happen. As you attempt to apply these natural home remedies as well as maybe some store-bought ones, or even take your child to a clinic, it's so important to remember that there are certain things you can do to make it easier on your child.
When children are sick, they tend to whine and feel unhappy in a way adults have learned to be easier to be around and suck it up. There is a level of care you can give your children that will help them cooperate with you during this time. So what are some tips?
Give Them Control
Children are treated like, well, children, by everyone. From teachers to doctors to parents, they are not frequently given any autonimity over themselves. This is a huge issue because when anyone feels they don't have any control over their lives, it can cause them to become stubborn. You can avoid this by giving your child some of the power back.
Allow him and her to comb out their own hair a few times, or to apply some of the product you are using. This will allow them to feel like they are part of what is happening to them, and who knows, maybe you'll learn a thing or two about how to be more gentle or how they would prefer you to get rid of this issue.
Explain Lice to Them
It is likely that your child will not know what is going on other than knowing that they have an itchy scalp. It can be a good idea to explain what is happening and how it will be resolved to the child directly.
Alice grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in California, though she likes to visit home frequently. She graduated from a marketing specialist degree and worked at the core of outreach teams for more than 5 years.