Louse In The House!
When my kindergartener was sent home from school with lice, I did what most Moms do – freaked out. I went into the drug store, purchased the medicated lice shampoo and the furniture sprays filled with neurotoxins, followed the directions on the boxes, and felt completely confident that these tiny parasites would be annihilated. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the treatment did not work. Soon, all three of my girls had heads full of lice and I did too!
Freak out number two: This time, I called the pediatrician and received a prescription for an even stronger lice shampoo. We all treated our hair with something that smelled like gasoline and burned like acid. I did the treatments out on our deck because the fumes were choking us. My young children, ages 6, 5, and 3 at the time, were crying, eyes bloodshot, coughing and spitting from the toxic fumes.
Lessons From The Trenches Of Chemical Warfare
Lice were dropping out of their hair, but I worried that whatever was in that stuff was being absorbed into their bloodstream through their scalp and breathed into their tiny lungs. Furthermore, this was the third chemical treatment I had used on my young children in a short period of time and despite my doctor’s advice, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with these methods. Furthermore, it wasn’t even working! I was so emotionally and physically exhausted from months and months of ineffective treatments and almost $500 in the hole from all of the expensive products.
I began researching non-toxic, natural remedies to treat lice and was appalled to discover that mainstream products contained ingredients categorized as pesticides, nerve poisons, and carcinogens. Furthermore, studies have shown that the over-use of these toxins create a breed of “super lice,” which I believed our family had. No amount of poison can destroy them!
Non-Toxic Lice Solutions
It’s 99% about the combing. No matter what lice treatment option you use, the most important tool in eradicating lice is the COMB. Invest in a good lice comb from the drug store. I love the Rid RIDvantage, red handled comb with metal teeth which cost about $10.00.
It’s 100% about the tenacity and patience. It seems easier to douse a head with chemicals, do one comb through then repeat the treatment as instructed 10-14 days later. Truthfully, a bit of elbow grease, a ton of patience, and good follow-through is all it takes to rid your household of lice without exposure to overly expensive pesticides, toxins, and nerve agents.
Basic Steps To Non-Chemical Lice Treatment
- Step 1: Wash hair. There are many suggestions for what to wash the hair with but the idea is to get the lice sedate enough so you can comb them out. When they are submerged in water they go into a dormant state which allows you to better “catch” them when you comb.
- Step 2: Condition with a heavy conditioner. I use Suave coconut scented. This allows the teeth of your fine tooth lice comb to glide through the hair. Conditioning also helps loosen up the “glue” of the lice egg on the hair shaft allowing easier removal.
- Step 3: Combing. With hair only slightly towel dried, prepare your “combing station” with a small container of hot water, a washcloth or napkin, lots of hair clips and your good lice comb. Divide hair into small sections. Comb through each section of hair multiple times at multiple angles with the fine side of the comb. Be very methodical and deliberate. Gently scrape the comb along the scalp (where the new eggs are laid) and follow through down to the ends of the hair shaft. Dip the comb frequently into a container filled with water and/or wipe comb on a napkin. Even if you don’t think the comb is working, you will be amazed to see little tiny black things floating in the water or on the napkin. These little black dots will be either eggs or tiny bodies of the newly hatched nymphs. The grown lice are about the size of a sesame seed and light brown in color while nymphs (babies) are half the size of a poppy seed and appear black. You will likely have to pick many eggs out by hand, but the comb is best for the nymphs which are the new generation of egg-layers, the ones that bite and make your head itch, and can never seen in the actual hair with the naked eye.
- Step 4: Blow dry hair on the highest heat setting when finished combing. If you own a flat iron, section hair and flat iron. Any eggs you miss with the comb and/or with hand picking will hopefully be burned with the high heat.
- Step 5: Rub a lice-deterring oil into the hair, such as tea tree oil or coconut oil. Longer hair should be kept up in a tight braid. Read labels carefully as many lice sprays contain toxins.
Repeat this entire process every day for 10 days. After the tenth day, it is advisable to go through the five steps about a week later and once a month preventatively afterwards, especially following a sleep-over or other activity where chance of exposure might be high.
During the 10-day treatment, launder all clothing, bedsheets and towels in hot water and dry on high heat. Vacuum all couches, mattresses and car seats, bag up those plush items that cannot be washed and store them for two weeks. Boil or freeze hairbrushes after each use. Change sheets and pillowcases each night during the 10-day treatment.
It certainly is easier to use mainstream lice products, but not necessarily safer for our kids, less expensive, or (sometimes) even as effective.
With some tenacity and lots of commitment I promise you can rid your family of lice safely and naturally.
Written by Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.
Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland