Do it yourself: Best home remedies for head lice

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Itchy scalps and crawly things – these are the things parents dread.  We’re talking about head lice, here, and they’re something truly worth discussing.  Millions of people every year, mostly children, end up getting head lice.  It’s a virtual fact of life that someone will either get them or know someone who has had them, so why not be aware of some great home remedies for treating head lice?

Whether you want to save some money or simply want to avoid using over the counter products that may contain unpleasant chemicals, home remedies are a great option to try before turning elsewhere.  Here, we’ll discuss the best remedies out there that are known to be truly effective at eliminating and preventing head lice.

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There’s an entire industry behind the treatment of head lice, and almost all of it is based upon chemically based products.  Most over the counter head lice products contain chemicals, such as pyrethroids or malathion, which are insecticidal chemicals.  These chemicals are considered to be relatively nontoxic to humans, especially in smaller doses, but repeated uses can lead to adverse side effects.

Prescription lice treatments carry far more serious risks, as these products contain much stronger chemicals.  Many of them have the possibility to cause irritation and even burns, while lindane is such a hazard that many countries have banned its used.  Currently, California is the only state to have banned the use of lindane for the treatment of lice, even though the World Health Organization has released data from studies that list the chemical as being carcinogenic.  Seizures and deaths are even known to have occurred from use of the prescription.  Many other prescription grade chemical treatments are linked to causing brain cell damage.

Apart from the health risks, the over the counter chemical products aren’t really working anymore.  Lice have steadily grown resistant to these products over the years, primarily because only one or two types of chemicals have been used to kill the parasites, thus providing them with the opportunity to grow a tolerance to the chemicals and even mutate their genetics to withstand them.

Half of all states in America are now known to harbor strains of lice known as super lice, making it somewhat pointless to turn directly to chemical based products.  Rather than put your child at risk, as well as waste your money, it makes more sense to look elsewhere first before turning to chemical treatment products.

Creating a treatment solution yourself at home comes with a lot of benefits.  For one thing, you know exactly what you’re putting on your child’s or your own head.  There aren’t going to be any chemicals involved, so you don’t have to worry about any serious health risks.

Apart from this, trying something out for yourself at home tends to be a lot less expensive, not to mention less uncomfortable.  Chemical treatments tend to smell and can irritate the skin, whereas home remedies can be created that not only smell nice but which also sooth the scalp.

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The simplest home remedy for dealing with lice is combing hair with a nit comb.  Nit combs are very fine combs that can capture both the lice and their nits (egg sacks).  While you could comb dry hair, the undisputed method for successfully eradicating lice infestations by combing is to comb with wet hair.

You shouldn’t simply wet the hair with water, but with some kind of lubricant, instead.  You can use almond oil, olive oil, tea tree oil, or any other form of oil/lubricant.  Be aware that some things can be more difficult to wash out, such as Vaseline, petroleum jelly, and mayonnaise (a well-known old fashioned home remedy).

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The purpose of using an oil is to smother the lice and their eggs, thus either killing them or making them slow enough to easily comb out of hair.  You’re going to have to routinely nit comb, maybe even for a couple of weeks, depending on the intensity of the infestation.  Continually combing and washing the hair will eventually eradicate the lice, though.

When combing, it’s best to separate the hair into different sections that you can work through, almost in a grid-like way.  You can separate oiled hair by using a larger, wide-toothed comb first before turning to the nit comb, or by using hair pins or clips to keep sections separated and secure.

Run the nit comb slowly and carefully through each section of hair, making sure to reach all the way down to the scalp, as head lice attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft.  After each pass, clean off the comb by either holding it under hot running water or by wiping it off with a paper towel.

In order to truly smother the lice and nits, you’ll need to apply your choice of remedies, and then cover the person’s head with a shower cap, sometimes overnight.

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Garlic is believed to do a sufficient job at smothering lice if you create a paste with it.  To create the paste, you’ll need about 10 garlic cloves and some lime juice.  Mash/grind the garlic into a paste, and then add a couple of teaspoons – maybe three – of the lime juice.  Massage the paste into the scalp, and then cover it with a shower cap, leaving it on for 30 minutes before washing it out with hot water.

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Salt can be used to dry out and kill lice and their eggs.  All you’ll need to do is mix ¼ of a cup of salt with ¼ cup of vinegar before spraying the mixture onto the hair.  You’ll need to cover the hair for a couple of hours, after which you can wash it and apply some conditioner to help the hair itself recover.

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Various essential oils are great for smothering, killing, and repelling lice.  Before using any kind of essential oil on someone’s scalp, be sure to test it first on an area of their skin to make sure they aren’t allergic to it.  Great essential oils to use include lavender oil, eucalyptus tree oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and nutmeg oil, among others.  Mix 15 or 20 drops of your selected oil with almond or olive oil, and then massage into the scalp and hair.  You’ll need to cover and leave the oil in overnight to achieve the desired result.

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Almost all home remedies require the implementation of various methods.  Before applying oils/lubricants for hair combing, try using vinegar first in order to dissolve the glue that binds the nits to the hair.  This should make it easier to remove them with the oil and comb routine.

After you’ve done your treatments, and you’ve washed out your or your child’s hair, bringing in some heat through the use of a blow dryer is a very effective way to bolster your lice killing potential.  Lice don’t like high levels of heat, and their eggs are especially vulnerable to high heat.  Having a nice, long session with a blow dryer can result in killing almost all of the eggs and over half of the adult lice.

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A lot of attention is paid to various head treatments for eradicating lice infestations, but doing some serious deep cleaning is also a major part in getting rid of lice and keeping them gone.  While lice can only survive for about a day or two after falling off the head, that’s plenty of time for someone’s head to come into contact with clothing, bed linens, or even towels that might harbor the creatures.

Your best bet is to wash everything.  You’ll need to set your washer to hot water, as high heat is what’s going to kill the lice and their eggs.  Make sure to toss out any hair styling products like pomades or mousses that could have become contaminated with nits.  You’ll also need to sanitize hairbrushes and combs, either by using a disinfectant or by boiling them – likely a more effective approach.

It may be a strain, but if you really want to make sure that the lice aren’t going to remain as a long-term problem, then you’ll need to keep up the heavy cleaning for a while.  Remember, lice are only going to be spread through direct contact –  they’re not capable of jumping or flying from host to host.

As long as you keep up with cleaning and regular lice treatments, you should be able to prevent them from spreading.  Also, remember to clean out your vehicles, paying special attention to head rests.  Cleaning your car is especially important if you have cloth seats, as lice have hooked limbs that will make it easier for them to cling to the fibers.

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Even if you haven’t had as much luck as you were hoping for with home remedy options, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to turn to chemical options.  Focus instead on finding treatment products that are based upon the use of natural ingredients.  Many companies that create products like this will create a mixture of different essential oils and plant extracts that are effective at combating lice.  You can also find such products that you can use to clean your home with in order to kill any lice that have fallen off an infested person’s head.

Perhaps due to the fact that over the counter chemical products for lice are losing their effectiveness, salons have started to spring up across the country specifically dedicated to head lice removal.  You can contact these businesses to find out about their treatment methods and whether or not they use chemical based products.

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For many such businesses, much of the focus is placed on nit combing, as this is a task that many people find tedious.  Plus, it may just be an added benefit to have a professional do the nit combing, especially since lice and nits can be difficult to see.

If all else does indeed fail, though, and you have to turn to chemical-based products, start with the mildest chemicals, like pyrethroid chemicals.  While there are strains of lice that have become resistant to this class of chemicals, only half the states in the country have reported cases of these strains, so it’s possible that pyrethroid based products will work for you.

If you do have to turn to a prescription-based product, then be sure to ask your doctor about the specific chemicals present in each product and what the possible health risks are with each one.  Remember to avoid lindane altogether, though, as it even comes with a black box warning label detailing the risks of using the product.  In terms of prescription-based products, benzyl alcohol and Spinosad seem to be the mildest ones with rather minimal possible side effects such as itching and redness.

Whether you choose to go with a home remedy, a naturally based product, or a chemical-based product, follow completely the directions given to you.  Especially in the case of over the counter products, not following the directions not only opens you up to possible health risks, but, more to the point, it makes it far more likely that you’re not going to get rid of the lice.

Treating lice means going through with the full treatment, and applying as much of a product and for as long as directed.  Not doing so means that some lice will be left behind, and that these will likely now have more of a tolerance for the product you’re using, making them even harder to get rid of.  There’s no need to make the situation harder; after all, you’ll have invested a bit of money and a good deal of time into the whole process, so don’t let it end up being for nothing.

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