Well, it has happened. My daughter’s best friend had head lice, which of course puts my family at high risk for contracting this parasite. I immediately reread Jessica Gottlieb’s post Head Lice (Leave Mommy alone, She’s Shaking in the Corner) and sent my kids to school with tea tree oil sprinkled in their hair.
Head lice causes many natural families to resort to chemicals, but you don’t need to. There are a lot of weird things people try in order to get rid of it (mayonnaise, kerosene [do not try this!]. The most common over the counter solutions are pediculicide containing shampoo, which Pediatrics call non-toxic. Other lice remedies contain the neurotoxins permethrin, pyrethrin, or malathion. Even though pyrethrin and permethrin are naturally-derived from chrysanthemum flowers, its use should be avoided in children for obvious reasons. Furthermore, head lice is becoming resistant to these chemical, toxic solutions.
According to Harvard Medical School:
Head lice are tiny insects that go by the big name Pediculus humanus capitis. They thrive in the warm tangle of human hair, feeding off blood in the scalp and breeding with abandon. A female lays eggs called nits that she attaches to strands of hair. Nits hatch after about eight days, become adults in another week or so, feed for awhile, then begin to make more lice.
What to do
First off, here’s what not to do: don’t shave your or your child’s head, or coat it with petroleum jelly or mayonnaise or anything else designed to “suffocate” the parasite. You’ll probably end up with greasy, smelly, lice-infested hair…
If you are worried about chemicals, don’t ignore the value of a nit comb. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 showed that combing out the hair with a fine-toothed comb (the “Bug Buster”) immediately after using conditioner worked better than a single treatment of an over-the-counter insecticide.
A natural, effective solution does exist for removing and killing head lice nits: Olive oil!
You can get rid of head lice naturally. It just takes repeated, vigilant practice. Follow these steps:
- Treat the infected persons environment by cleaning clothing and bedding. Stuffed animals can be bagged for three weeks or placed in the dryer for 20 minutes. Pediatrics suggests:
1) Clean all of the subject’s combs and brushes at home, by either putting them through a dishwasher cycle or soaking them for 10 minutes in isopropyl alcohol. 2) Change the subject’s clothes to fresh clothes. 3) Heat the subject’s pillowcase, sheets, blankets, comforter, and bedspreads in the dryer for 10 minutes and then put them back on the bed.
- Apply olive oil all over the child’s head and scalp. Cover with a plastic bag or shower cap for two to three hours.
- Comb the hair with a nit comb section by section.
- Wash hair.
- Repeat on days 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21. Lice has a three-week life cycle.
Be sure you check everyone in your family and treat accordingly.
Olive oil works to suffocate the adult bugs. It can be reapplied without worrying about toxicity, and it works on bugs that would be resistant and thus unresponsive to repeated chemical applications.