Children are prone to catching head lice; whether they get them from at school, nursery or daycare, at some point your child is more than likely to bring these bugs home.
First, let’s look at some myths about head lice:
- Head lice only like clean hair. Not true; they really aren’t that fussy. Head lice can be found in dirty and clean hair.
- Head lice don’t live in short hair. Again, not true. Whilst it’s easier for people who have long hair to catch head lice, they live as close to the scalp as possible so as long as you have enough hair for them to cling to and for the female to lay her eggs, you can host these bugs.
- Head lice jump from head to head. It’s false. These creatures can’t jump so you have to be in close contact with someone to catch them. It’s why children are more susceptible to spreading them as they like to get their heads together with friends.
- Adults can’t catch head lice. Sadly, this is also false. While adults are less prone to the spread of lice, you can catch them at any age.
If your child (or you) has caught head lice then the last thing you want to do is put harsh chemicals all over their head. It’s bad enough having them in the first place without exposing your loved one to nasty toxic chemicals. Some over-the-counter products contain a poison that’s been banned for use in the farming industry; frequent use of these products is bad for your health. So, if you need to treat your child for head lice then try to choose a natural alternative as it is likely that it won’t be the last time you need to so.
Step 1: kill the head lice
Fortunately lice respond to inexpensive and simple home remedies which are safe and easy to prepare. The quickest way to treat your child is with a fresh jar of mayonnaise. Put a towel around your child’s shoulders and put them somewhere they can comfortably sit for a couple of hours without getting mayonnaise on your furniture.
Smother the mayonnaise all over their head ensuring that you cover the surface of the hair including the nape of the neck and behind their ears. Pop a shower cap over the top to prevent dripping into the face (or over floor) and leave for two hours. The mayonnaise will suffocate the lice and destroy most of the eggs. Once the treatment time is up, wash the hair with an ordinary shampoo, repeating as necessary to remove all traces of the mayonnaise. This treatment is best done during the day as mayonnaise can go off overnight and potentially cause a tummy upset if accidentally ingested.
An alternative to mayonnaise is Vaseline. Using the same process, apply to the hair. Bear in mind that before you wash the hair, you will need to use baby oil to remove the Vaseline. You might also need to wash the hair several more times to really get the product off. This method can be used overnight for maximum benefits.
If you don’t want to try these methods then you could make a herbal mixture to kill the head lice. Following the recipe below, make up this simple mixture:
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil;
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil;
- 5 drops lavender essential oil;
- 5 drops mint essential oil;
- 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil;
- 5 teaspoons of olive or coconut oil.
Add a small squirt of your regular shampoo to your oils and apply to the head, again making sure to cover all of the hair, the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Put a shower cap or towel over the top and leave for an hour or so. Rinse the mixture off but don’t apply any conditioner.
Important things to remember:
- Young children or babies can experience respiratory problems when exposed to mint or eucalyptus oil.
- Symptoms of high blood pressure can worsen as a result of using mint essential oil.
- Exposure to both rosemary and mint can be harmful during pregnancy. Simply prepare the treatment without these ingredients.
Step 2: safely remove the eggs
Once you’ve killed the lice, you will need to ensure the head is free from eggs to prevent a new outbreak from occurring. The eggs, known as ‘nits’, are attached to the shaft of the hair with a sort of ‘glue’.
Whichever method you’ve used you will need to treat the head with vinegar after shampooing. The acid in the vinegar dissolves the ‘glue’. There is no need to leave on the head but work it in thoroughly before rinsing with hot water.
Most of the eggs should have come away with the vinegar rinse but you will need to go through the hair just for good measure.
Using an ordinary comb, untangle the hair as much as you can. Then, using a special louse comb, re-comb the hair from scalp to tip making sure you cover every last inch of hair. These combs are very finely-toothed and have a special design for removing head lice and nits. They can be bought from most chemists.
Check the hair
Under good light, and once the hair is dry (nits are easier to spot in dry hair), double check the head again. Check in sections and particularly around the edges such as the nape of the neck or behind the ears. The eggs are usually right beside the scalp, up to an inch down the hair shaft. If you find any eggs then comb or pick them out.
Eyebrows and eyelashes
If you’ve caught lice in the eyebrows or eyelashes then use Vaseline and apply four times a day.
Step 3: stay vigilant
After the initial treatment most, if not all, of the head lice and nits should be gone but even if one egg remains, an outbreak can reoccur. You should continue to check for any eggs that might have been missed for at least 10 days after the initial treatment.