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Nits ~ How to stop reinfection

Updated on May 3, 2012

My story

My brother and I were lucky growing up and never got Head lice. I am unsure if this was due to extreme good luck or to our Mothers foresight and help. Our hair was only washed once a week on a Saturday. I know that this was done so our hair wasn't clean on a Monday as even 30 years ago everyone knew head lice preferred clean hair.

So I grew up nit free ... yay for me. So fast forward and I’m living with one of my partners who had a beautiful 8 year old daughter and I had a handsome little 4 year old son. Both came home with head lice, one from primary school and one from kindergarten. Sadly my parents had passed away years before hand so I was unable to ask them how they had kept us nit free as children.

So off we went and brought nit combs, shampoos and anything else we could find. Every Friday all bedding went through a hot wash then another wash with nit shampoo added to it.

The children were combed every evening and by Sunday were basically louse free only to come home every Monday with many new “adult friends" in their hair.

Yep you guessed it ... It was time for me to learn more about these parasitic pests. Firstly what their life cycle is and then a bit about them sounded good to me. Let’s face it no one would ever find out how to control anything without learning something about what they are up against.

Life cycle of Head lice

Super Headlice

So after around three generations head lice and their eggs start to build up a resistance to a particular shampoo or other product that is being used on them. This makes the nits "super Head lice".

Basically this means if your child has head lice you need to change products you’re using every two weeks so the lice don't build up immunity to any one product. Now let’s be honest here...

Firstly ~ most people don't have the money to buy five or more different products so they can keep changing the product they are using.

Secondly ~ almost every product there is out there has the same basic active ingredients. Therefore it stands to reason that these active ingredients that are in almost every product will become inactive. Like Pyrethroids (so basically no product will fully work).

Lastly ~ It appears that some of the ingredience in these products can cause some serious side effects in children like Ovide ~ Malathion. Especially if they are taken over long periods of time.

Back to my story

Okay so here I am finding out about head lice, what they are, how they live, and how almost every product out there has either toxically dangerous or ineffective products contained in them. Oh yay for me ... now what

So it looks like were left with combs ... happily those newer versions that zap the intruding scavengers are a lot faster and more effective to use than their older counterparts. So we brought one of the robi combs as pictured.

Are they any good? ... Yes but they don't stop your children from being infected every day at school or Kindy. I also have to say that my robi comb died from over use after a few months. They also tend to zap your child’s ear or head at times which is most unpleasant for them and makes younger children fearful and uncooperative.

I also found that putting heaps of conditioner on the head, waiting for 10 minutes then combing the hair does remove most of the lice from your child’s hair. It doesn’t get all of them and it doesn’t get the eggs but if a child is riddled it will certainly get most of the lice in the hair.

Our girl and her friend jumped into a water hole early springtime when we were camping. Heaps of lice were left sitting on the surface of the water when our girl’s friend dunked her head and swam under water. The water was freezing so it’s not something I suggest anyone does as you could give your child a head cold or worse.

It did however remind me of a nature programme I watched where foxes would grab a piece of moss on their mouth and slowly back into a thawing stream. The lice would move to the head then onto the moss which the fox would let go of as it dunked its head. Shows how intelligent some animals are doesn’t it. The moss would float downstream and the fox would be nearly lice free until the eggs hatched. Yep that’s right this doesn’t seem to fully get all the little buggerlugs either.

One more thing that tends to help is 20 minutes of hard brushing. This can basically break the louses legs which means they can’t move about to lay eggs etc. You need to do this daily for any effectiveness.

The picture below shows what head lice look like for anyone who doesn’t yet know.

What you need to look for when checking for headlice

Nits (thats what the eggs are called)
Nits (thats what the eggs are called)
Nits ~ close up
Nits ~ close up
Head lice (from newly hatched to fully grown)
Head lice (from newly hatched to fully grown)
size of lice compared to a match head
size of lice compared to a match head

The History of Head lice

5,600,000 BC ~ Human head lice moved away from being chimpanzee head lice. This information is from (MT DNA) data.

8,000 BC ~ this is how old the world oldest head louse is. It was found in an archaeological dig in northeast Brazil. How incredible is it that we have been itching for so long.

3,000 BC ~ not only were nits found on an Egyptian mummy but nit combs were also found in in both this and most other tombs. Nit combs are the oldest form of louse and nit control.

1536 BC ~ this appears to be the first time in history that a lice and nit treatment has been found to exist. According to the "Ebers Papyrus spitting warm date meal and water onto the skin helps to rid oneself of these parasites.

100 AD ~ interestingly it was the Chinese that discovered that Pyrethrum powder was in fact insecticidal. Without this discovery we wouldn’t have most of our modern day louse shampoo's etc.

1300 AD ~ Pyrethrum powder was finally brought to Europe by Marco Polo. It was said to be "a wondrous product with secret origins".

15th Century ~ An English book on leaches comes out. I have put a few of the more interesting ones below. I have never tried any of this myself and therefore any of them could be harmful or poisonous if used.

~ Take capsicum and make a powder of it. Mix the powder with vinegar and anoint the head with it.

~ Take seawater (you can add brine if you wish) and wash your head. If anyone wishes to try the seawater (which is basically salted water) I'd love to know if this actually gets rid of them. I don't believe putting brine in one’s hair would be a very pleasant thing to try so please don't ick.

1491 ~ this is the first known drawing of lice. They were made from wood-cuts and were shown in the first edition of a book called Hortus sanitatis.

1995 ~ In Briton and Australia head lice were showing a resistance to Pyrethroids.

My Story

Now where was I? So I got to thinking that you hardly ever see teenagers with nits. Also children who have always been infested become clear of lice.

My next question was ... why is that?

So I found out what had changed in the way these teens treated their hair. The answer to my children’s nit problem was right there in front of me.

As they became teens all these people had started to use product in their hair ... like moose, gel, hairspray, fudge etc.

The other difference was that they had started blow-drying their hair after showers. Some were also straightening or crimping etc.

You better believe that I tried this on our kids. I am happy to report they not only became louse free they stayed that way. Yes I did offer this information to my friends and to my son’s teacher.

Sadly the teacher didn't take any stock in what I told her as she believed that only shampoos etc. could be effective in dealing with nits.

So put gel or hairspray or something in your childrens hair before they go to school (lice dont like the products)

use hairdryers etc. to kill any lice or eggs on your childrens heads. you need to use the dryers for at least 20 minutes.

Interesting facts about headlice

Firstly Head lice can't jump. Lice move from person to person by either crawling from one head to another. They can also crawl or drop onto couches, beds, chairs etc.

Lice can't survive off a human head for long periods of time. However in saying that ... Lice can survive on bedding or chairs for around 8 hours. When you think about all the heads that could share a chair in that length of time, which could be a very productive 8 hours for the lice.

Head lice can survive in the swimming pool for nearly 30 minutes.

I have also seen info that states lice can survive for a week on moccasins. I am not sure if this is due to what moccasins are made from and I haven’t tested this theory but thought it should be added here.

The egg of the head lice is called a nit.

Lice attach the eggs to the host’s hair with a specialised spit. So not only are we being fed on, were also being spat on. Nice ...not!

The further up a hair strand a nit is the older the egg.

Young lice are called Nymphs.

People itch due to the fact they are experiencing an allergic reaction to the louse bites. Please be aware that some unlucky people are more allergic than others and can have reactions that may need a Dr to check out i.e. red, swollen, or painful skin. Tender lymph nodes in the neck, or a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Using a hair dryer for at least 20 minutes has been shown to kill lice with a percentage kill rate of 90% for eggs and a 85% overall kill rate.

Head lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair.

Although it is uncommon head lice can come off into your brush and be spread if you share your brush with someone else.

The colour of head lice can be anything from pale beige to a very dark grey.

My Story

This is around the time that I recalled that when we were kids I used to play hairdresser and we would dry our hair under one of the hairdryers that are show on the right. The top one was similar to the one mum had except her one was in a semi circled box. The second one is also similar to another one my mum had.

I also used to wear hairspray to school. I believe my brother used some man’s stuff my dad used.

So I have told anyone and now hopefully everyone how and what I figured out to give your child and your friends children the chance to be nit and louse free.

Please give me feedback on how this works for you. I will add a poll for those who want to have a way to do this quickly as I know not everyone has the time to leave comments.

The people I’ve told who actually gave this a go have all said that it has worked for them.

Feedback on my suggestion

What did you try and did it work?

See results


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    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      It is hard enough to try and eradicate lice when notes are sent home to all parents to let them know the daycare has an outbreak. I would be horrified if a day care didn't care about the health and wellbeing of the children in their care.

      The next step is a centre wide check and a banning of anyone who is still infected.

      I don't blame you for changing daycares. I would call the health care centre or whoever polices this sort of thing where you live. At least this way the childcare will have to do something about this infestation.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 

      6 years ago from United States

      My kids got lice 3 times in a row recently. I was going crazy. I spent the big bucks on the expensive lice killing shampoo. spent hours picking through each ones hair day after day. I washed everything in the house, too. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

      I started doing lice checks every day. The older two were lice free day after day, but the one who goes to day care had lice every day. I would spend hours combing through her hair getting her 100% lice free just for more lice to come home with her the next day.

      The day care got upset at me for suggesting they do a center wide lice check. That would mean losing money for them right? It isn't like daycare is mandatory. I ended up having to switch daycare just so I could have a life outside of lice combing!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Hi jacqui2011 ... I know what you mean as soon as anyone mentions head lice most people itch their heads lol. Tea tree oil or tea tree shampoo works to a certain extent. I'm afraid when I tried it on our kids hair it got rid of some lice but did not complete the job.

      Sadly the only thing I found that fully stopped reinfection was hairspray and hair gel.

      I believe I now need to go wash my hair as well lol.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thanks for stopping by zzron ... it's always a pleasure to get your feedback.

    • jacqui2011 profile image


      6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Very interesting and informative hub. My head was itching as I read your article. Lol. My daughter caught lice once in primary school and I was freaked out by it. I washed her hair and used conditioner and a nit comb. I sat for around 4 hours, splitting her hair into sections and combing every strand of hair. There were loads of the little critters. Luckily they never came back and I always tied her hair up when she was at school after that. My friend told me that tea tree oil shampoo is a prevention as lice don't like the smell of it. I still check her hair once a week to ensure she has no visitors! Off to wash my hair now. Voted up and useful.

    • zzron profile image


      7 years ago from Houston, TX.

      Very educational, thanks for the lesson and the research.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thank you Simone ... I believe this is a traumatic experience for any child to have to go through and if I can help at least lessen the time any child has to go through this experience then more people will share this info and that has to be a good thing.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thank you vocalcoach it was actually due to our grandchildren getting nits and me telling them how to stop reinfection and how to get rid of them that reminded me I should write a hub and share this with as many people as possible

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Great guide. I was reinfected with head lice when I was a kid and it was so traumatic, so I'm glad that you've offered so many great tips! Hopefully you're sparing more kids from the same stressful experience I had. I mean, it's not just about the hassle... it's about the stigma, too T___T

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      A very informative article and the photos are great. You could give a wonderful lecture on this subject. It's way past time to bring this problem out in the open. So many know so little about Nits (head lice). I rated Up and useful. Thanks.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Yes preventing them would be the best ... do tou think someone will create a pill or a vaccine for us all to use.

      I'm glad the listerine worked out for you. That's one more thing for people to try knowing it was effective yay.

      Sorry you became nauseated ... sure hope you didn't read it just before brecky or something lol.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I became nauseated just reading this Hub. My niece once had lice when she came to visit. I did some research and tried Listerine. And used the cheap $3 store brand. It worked like a charm. Of course as you mentioned it does not prevent the nasty creatures from getting on in the first place. Bleck!!!!!


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