Dealing With Head Lice the Natural Way | Seventh Generation
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Dealing With Head Lice the Natural Way

Author: momgoesgreen

Head LouseIt caught me by surprise. My 13-year-old son, newly arrived from a soccer match, said that his head felt itchy and went off to take a bath. A few minutes later he called out, "Mom, look what I found," and emerged from the bathroom with his finger tip extended, a spindly brown thing with many legs perched on the end. This event was unexpected -- there had been no reports from school -- but I stayed calm. We'd been through the head lice wars before, and I knew what to expect.

The first time around, we'd treated the condition with one of the over-the-counter remedies that contains permethrin, a synthetic insecticide. But the chemicals don't always kill all the nits, and my son (are all teenagers this stubborn?) remembered that he didn't like the smell and refused to use the lice-killing shampoo. Unwilling to argue about it, I decided to skip the chemical process and go straight to the nitpicking.

It took time and effort, but nitpicking alone worked. For those of you who face a similar infestation, here's a guide to getting rid of head lice the natural way:

  1. Diagnose the condition. The main symptoms are itchiness on the scalp and back of the neck. You may spot a few gray or reddish brown live head lice, but mostly you will see nits, or unhatched eggs. The eggs are oval-shaped and about the size of a sesame seed or smaller, and they will be firmly attached to the side of the hair shaft.
  2. Don't panic. Head lice are no fun, but you can quickly gain the upper hand if you are diligent about it. (During our recent bout, the rest of the family was unaffected.)
  3. You will need patience and a good pair of magnifying glasses. Lice are canny critters and do a great job hiding their eggs. It will likely take you a few days of morning and evening comb-out sessions to remove all the nits. You can use a lice comb with dense teeth, or use your fingernails. (I find the fingernail method works best.)
  4. Employ a system for nit removal and stick to it. Start in the same part of the head every time, and work your way back to this point. We start with the base of the neck, and work our way up and around. The area around and below the ears tends to be a favorite nesting zone.
  5. Nits can look like dandruff. The difference is dandruff will easily comb out, while nits will feel like they are attached to the hair shaft and will need to be pulled off.
  6. Set up the nit removal process near a source of water and make sure you have good light. We bring a chair into the bathroom. Wash your hands often, and have something disposable to catch the nits. We often put them into the basin of the sink, then carefully wipe the sink clean.
  7. Even when you are certain you have picked your last nit, keep checking for at least two days, then check again a few days later.
  8. On the bright side, we found that once we settled into the nitpicking routine, we used the time together -- away from homework and electronics -- to have some good family chats.

photo: Eran Finkle


jacintobonno09123 picture
hey i found a really great thing to cure head lice. its like a metal comb or something. accompanied by regular washing of clothes. we can get rid of head lice one head a a time. lol
willowandlaylasmom picture
I found a great regimental program called "Head Lice to Dead Lice" online. The brief movie is comical and helped my littles understand what lice are, how to deal with them and move on. We are glad that the back bone of the program is olive oil. We also add tea tree oil- it adds effectiveness. We've gone from lots of nits to just 3 in about 5 days. In addition, we've been diligent in the nit removal, blanket washing, and vacuuming. I highly recommend this program as it is based on research developed by the Harvard School of Health. (Plus, it makes the hair soo shiny and soft!)
Peglundin picture
Work a copious amount of it into your hair & scalp & leave it on for a while. Shampoo it out. Kills all bugs and leaves your hair shiny and gorgeous for weeks.
AdvicePeeps picture
My little sister got headlice insane amount of times in her elementary school. My mother insisted on using chemicals. When my mother left, my sister cause the lice again. I talked to my father about the dangerous chemicals she had been putting on my sister's scalp and read him off the pamphlets warnings. He suggested I find a new way to handle the lice. I got rid of the lice practically overnight without any sort of chemicals at all. It took some vinegar, baby oil type stuff, a plastic bag, a lice comb, and a lot of time. My sister, who was maybe 6 at the time, was so happy to have them gone. Here was my method, step by step, that really does work:
stellalenoir picture
I have 3 young girls, and last year we had our first run in with head lice. All girls have long thick hair, so it was difficult to find let alone pick out the bugs. I confess to trying a permethrin based shampoo first, which did nothing! I then tried a vinegar rinse. Making sure to get every hair very well. I then combed through the hair with a very fine nit comb. The nits released very well after the vinegar rinse! It seems to melt them a bit and they loose the super stickiness to cling to hair. We also did an olive oil treatment where you liberally coat the hair with olive oil and wrap the hair overnight, just in case. In just one treatment there were no nits! I did repeat the process just in case. I also used a hair straightener on my school age daughters hair as an extra measure of protection. Figured if there was even one nit left it would fry under the heat of the straightener. The vinegar and oil worked very well, on a 2.5yr old, a 4 year old and a pre teen.
bethsanchez picture
I got this idea from my sister-in-law when my kids were little, and I swear by it. It's cheap and non-toxic so you can use it over and over, as many times as you need to. It's even good for your hair! Just slather on a large amount of mayonnaise. Work it into your child's hair, all the way down to the scalp. Cover with a shower cap and leave for 1 hour. Wash out with regular shampoo. The thick, oily mayonnaise suffocates the lice. You can repeat this every couple of days, as new lice hatch, until they are all gone. It's quicker than picking out nits individually. It really works!
billirae picture
For lice, I would use eucalyptus, rosemary, or melaleuca (tea tree oil). A drop of essential oil diluted in a tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil then only 1-2 drops of that rubbed into the scalp three times a day. I only use Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Oils which ensure there are no synthetics or pesticides in them.
grandsrgreat picture
I raised 4 boys, and was lucky enough to never have a case of lice, maybe because of shorter hair, I did have a friend who had girls with thick, long hair, and we picked and picked on those girls, than I picked on their mom's head, it was great fun! We laughed a lot!
autumnlover3 picture
When I was little and I had lice, we used flea & tick dog shampoo and the lice comb and that was the magic bullet. I don't know what was in it (I suspect it wasn't too green, despite the color) but it worked with a vengeance. I wonder if there is green flea & tick shampoo on the market, and if it would work as well. I haven't looked much at pet products yet.
sandyrichardson07 picture
I recently learned that original listerene mouth wash also works instantly.
Pamalla86 picture
I Had a friend that also bought tea tree oil shampoo. She did the nit picking for three days and had her boys washing their hair everyday with the tea tree oil and she said it helped with the nit picking and it also kept the live bugs at bay. I have never done this but she swears why it. Good luck.