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How Can I Get Rid of Head Lice?

When an individual has lice, it is important to comb out the hair at least twice a day.
Washing all bedding and clothes in hot water is an important step in lice removal.
There are shampoos available specifically designed to kill lice.
Oil or vinegar may be used to suffocate lice.
Severe head lice may require the help of a doctor.
Try applying petroleum jelly overnight to suffocate head lice.
A head louse.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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Head lice are small insect parasites that greatly enjoy human blood, and they view the head as an incubation facility. There are a number of ways to get rid of these creatures, ranging from chemical treatments to all natural varieties; depending on sensitivity and personal taste, you may want to integrate a combination of treatments. Be aware that combinations of chemicals are not recommended, as chemical lice treatments can be very harmful.

It is important to be vigilant about lice, and to report them immediately if they are spotted, especially in school-age children. Many people notice head lice because they experience a rash and itching on the head. Upon close inspection, eggs known as nits are revealed around the roots of the hair. Treatment involves both killing the adult lice and ensuring that the nits do not hatch. Since nits incubate for around a week, any successful treatment will last at least this long, with two week treatments being much more common.

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Head lice are spread through close contact. As a general rule, it is an excellent idea to confine use of personal items to one person; if you have children, make sure that they do not share brushes, combs, hats, jackets, and similar items. Once lice are removed from the body, they die after around 24 hours. If you are experiencing an infestation, start by washing all bedding and garments in hot water, and vacuuming your home. Do this on a regular basis for two weeks while you treat the head of the patient.

Medicated lice shampoos contain insecticides that are designed to kill the lice and stop the nits from hatching. If the patient has allergies or sensitive skin, such shampoos should not be used. They are also not recommended for children under two, and they should be kept away from pets since some insecticides are highly toxic, and a small dosage could be fatal to household pets. If you choose to use a lice shampoo, follow the directions carefully, and combine it with regular combing, which some people believe is the most crucial element in lice removal. Do use more shampoo than is recommended, as this can be dangerous, and if you are combining medicated shampoo and natural treatments, start with the shampoo.

Use a very fine toothed comb to comb out the patient's hair at least two times a day. You may find it helpful to rinse the hair with vinegar first, as the water slows the lice down and the vinegar loosens the nits. Dump the combings onto a paper towel that can be burned or flushed afterwards. Even after a lice infestation appears to have cleared up, combing a few days a week is an excellent idea.

You can also try applying oil or petroleum jelly overnight. This will suffocate the adult head lice and condition the patient's hair to a silky shine. Several rinses with shampoo will be needed to remove the oil, and combing is still required. Some essential oils also help; try tea tree and eucalyptus oil, both of which are natural and mild insecticides.

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Discuss this Article

Ted41
Post 5

@KaBoom - I'm not sure I would have the patience to mess around with natural treatments for head lice eggs. I've never had head lice, but they sound pretty awful and the idea of having a bunch of bugs crawling around on my head really freaks me out!

Natural treatments usually take a little bit longer than chemical treatments for most things, so I imagine natural treatments for lice probably take longer than the regular treatments. I don't know think I would want to wait any longer than I had to to get rid of a case of head lice!

KaBoom
Post 4
I had no idea there were so many natural treatments for killing head lice. If (God forbid) I ever need to treat a case of head lice, I think I will try the natural treatments and combing first. It seems much less harsh than using the chemical shampoos.
dautsun
Post 3

@Pharoah - When I was a kid, we had head lice going around our school. My sister got it, but luckily I didn't end up with them because my mom was really vigilant about cleaning the house and making sure to dispose of the lice properly.

My mom used the chemical treatment to kill the head lice my sister had, and she also combed the lice out of her hair like the article says to do. We had another neighbor who had lice, and her mom just used the chemical shampoo. It didn't work on the first go around, but when her mom tried a second round of the shampoo combined with combing, they managed to get rid of the lice.

Pharoah
Post 2

@wizodd - Shaving does sound like a good way to treat head lice, at least for boys. However, most girls would probably be very upset if their parents shaved the bottom 3 inches of their hair off! Not to mention they would risk getting teased at school for having a "weird" haircut.

I don't see anything wrong with using the chemical treatments if your kids get lice. This kind of treatment is the reason people don't run around with lice infestations all the time like they used to!

wizodd
Post 1

Head lice require a narrow temperature and humidity range in order to hatch. This is usually limited to the 3" band at the back of the head running up from the collar 3" and ear to ear.

Shaving this area will prevent the lice from hatching and all of them will be dead within a few days as the adults do not live very long. There are dozens of chemical treatments available, many including insecticides. There are hundreds of home remedies, many of which also contain dangerous chemicals.

ALL such treatments cause you to absorb chemicals into your skin, may not be not a major problem for most adults, but children have very small body mass, and it is very easy to dose them with enough of a chemical to badly affect them.

My experience has been that NONE of them work as well as simply shaving the last 3" of the scalp bounded by the ears and the shoulders. It's simple, free, safe and works.

Moderator's reply: shaving may be an only option when combating super lice, which tend to be resistant to the chemicals most parents use to rid their children of head lice. thanks for that suggestion!

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