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Home Remedies: How To Get Rid Of Lice

Updated on December 26, 2012

....Or What Worked at Our House.

"Mom, my head itches...REAL bad."

"Oh no," I groaned. I knew what was coming. My daughter had contracted lice from school twice in the past. "Let me look in your hair," I said to her, already knowing what I would find. After looking through her hair in a moderately lit room and not seeing anything, I had her move outside into bright, natural light. Sure enough those dreaded tell-tale nits were secured along the strands of her hair. Pictured to the left are nits (lice eggs). They are quite tiny and sometimes almost translucent, making it difficult to spot them before a small infestation is a larger one. (For an idea of the size of nits, nymphs and adult lice, see below).

Taking Action to Get Rid Of the Lice

The Start of a Too Long Process

I called the school to let them know she'd be absent for the next two days and why. Next a trip to the store was made to pick up a bottle of RID. It is, after all the most famous name in lice treatment, right? I treated her head and with some (a lot) of difficulty combed through her long hair to get the nits (lice eggs) out. Unfortunately, the plastic combs that come in the box didn't actually screen them out, as her hair is so fine. I watched as strand after strand of nit filled hair, just went through the comb teeth, not removing the nits. I started the arduous process of sliding them from her hair strands, one by one, by hand. My daughter was less than patient with the process.

According to directions, you need to repeat the process within 10 days, as any remaining nits will hatch and a whole new lice population starts in your hair. I planned on treating her again in three days, to be on the safe side. Her hair looked clear of nits and she returned to school. After two more days her head was itching...and so was mine.

"Of course," I thought. If she had lice, I'd have it. Having a daughter with hair down past her waist, it was almost a daily routine that I helped her get tangles out. My hair is relatively long as well. Lice like to move on to other prospective hosts. My supposition was not wrong.

There was another call to the school and another trip to the store to get more lice treatment. This time I tried Lice MD. It was easier to comb through the hair, and much more pleasant smelling than RID. My daughter was less than appreciative of going through the process again. It was decided to cut her hair. She was a bit nervous at first, but the tugging down her long hair swayed her decision. Even though the Lice MD was easier to comb through, her very long hair was still a problem, so I trimmed her hair to three inches below her shoulders. I figured with the shorter hair and multiple treatments, we'd surely have this beat.

Of course I was doing all the other things you are supposed to do to rid lice from your home including daily washing of bed sheets and pillowcases, putting stuffed animals in plastic bags, spraying lice bedding spray on couches, in bicycle helmets on car seats and anything else I could think if she had leaned against. There was also the boiling of the five brushes (then throwing away two brushes that didn't survive the boiling process).

She returned to school again to come home with....lice. I called the school and requested they do a head check.

"We don't do those anymore," I was told. "I don't think any other parent as called in to inform us their child has lice. Besides, she could have gotten it anywhere. Maybe she was riding a public bus and got it. Anyone can get it."

The last statement of course was true, anyone can get lice. It was also true that my daughter was just attending school and coming home, and not by bus. The fact that they wouldn't do a check was rather frustrating. Just because no other parent called to give somewhat embarrassing and truthful information about why their child was absent (or should have been) doesn't mean there were no children with lice at the school.

The battle continued for several weeks. Even the licorice-scented lice spray that supposedly kills all nits and lice didn't work. You are not supposed to wash it out for two days, but let me tell you, after those two day your hair feels filthy. Anyway, I finally thought we had this beat.

"Mom, my hair still itches a lot!"

Nymph Emerging from Egg (Nit)

This is a photograph of a nit attached to a single strand of hair. The nymph of a head louse is about to emerge from the egg.

Photo Credit: Dr. Dennis D. Juranek

Female Head Louse

This is a photograph of a head louse, whose only host is humans. The louse feeds on blood several times daily. This creature resides close to the scalp, particularly the back of the neck and behind the ears, to maintain its body temperature.

Photo credit: Reed & Carnrick Pharmaceuticals

Looking For an Alternative

Lice Treatments are Not Cheap

I couldn't believe the process was lasting so long. I didn't remember it being dragged out like this in the past. None of these products were working 100% and I didn't want to put any more pesticides in our hair, not to mention that I already shelled out over 150 dollars for these "cures." I started looking for home remedies. There seem to be a considerable amount of them (some made me cringe though). I read everything from mayonnaise mixtures that you had to keep on your head for twelve hours, to pouring kerosene through your hair (I'm not joking).

Many of the home remedy mixtures required that you keep the concoction in their hair and put a plastic bag over your child's head while they sleep. I'm sure they meant plastic bag over their HAIR. No, nada. I didn't want a plastic bag anywhere near my daughter's face, especially overnight.

Others highly recommended using tea tree oil to rid your head of lice. A dear friend of mine who was helping me do research found that tea tree oil may alter hormone levels. There were three case reports of topical tea tree oil products causing unexplained breast enlargement in boys. It may cause skin irritation, redness, blistering, and itching. If taken internally (even in small amounts) can impair your immunity system and central nervous system. Tea tree oil was out of the question.

After being through so much and putting so many chemicals in our hair I was looking for something that wouldn't cost a lot, wouldn't involve 12 or more hours of it in our hair and wouldn't cause hormonal side effects (or worse). Pouring kerosene over her head was totally out of the question. I decided to try one recommendation, and it worked for us.

Taking charge at home

RID Ridvantage Lice Comb
RID Ridvantage Lice Comb

Though the RID lice treatment was a total disappoint and very difficult to comb out of hair, the RID lice comb was worth every penny. This is the one we used and I highly recommend it.


Finally, a Solution

A Lot Less Expensive than Lice Treatments too!

The solution to our lice problem was Denorex Extra Strength dandruff shampoo (with 3% Salicylic Acid) and Sauve Tropical Coconut Conditioner. The Denorex dries out and kills the lice, and I found that lice abhor coconut oil. It was recommended that using Sauve Tropical Coconut Conditioner would help repel lice.

To help matters, my friend went and purchased a METAL nit pick. It was around $10 but worth every penny. (See my comments above on the Ridvantage Lice Comb). Its beveled edges actually removed nits. I still had to pick some out by hand, but it was much better than the plastic ones. For the next five days we followed this procedure:

1) Shampooed with Denorex shampoo

2) Put in Sauve Coconut conditioner

3) Used nit comb and went through hair with conditioner in

4) Rinsed hair and then combed again

5) Continued to change bedding, wash towels and sterilize combs and brushes

We haven't had lice in a while now, but Suave Coconut Conditioner is always in the house. We use Denorex at least twice a week and the rest of the week use coconut shampoo.

Cost: Denorex Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo (12 ounces) - $8 - $9. Suave Coconut Condition - $1, Good quality metal nit comb - $10 - $11 (one time purchase). It all worked out in the end. Even her friends liked her new haircut.

Lice MD - Most Child-Friendly

LiceMD Head Lice Treatment Kit, 4 oz
LiceMD Head Lice Treatment Kit, 4 oz

Though none of the over-the-counter lice treatments work 100%, I found that Lice MD was the most child-friendly treatment. If you have a bad infestation, you may want to try this, followed up with the Denorex and Suave Coconut Conditioner. It is an oil-like application that you massage into the hair. Its pleasant smelling and relatively easy to comb through (compared to the others). The oily residue will take two shampoos to get completely out of the hair, but it was the best of the bunch of all the products we tried.


The Battle Against Lice - How Do You Get Rid of Lice?

If you've had to deal with your child contracting head lice, your input would be appreciated.

Home Remedy Books - Some home remedy books you may find useful

Things to Remember as Part of Lice Treatment - Treating Your Hair is just the First Step

  1. Wash all bedding in hot water
  2. Vacuum upholstered furniture and carpets
  3. Treat any combs and brushes in the house
  4. Vacuum or wash any stuffed animals
  5. Wipe down leather or vinyl furniture
  6. Wipe down or vacuum car seats
  7. Treat bicycle helmets
  8. Use lice bedding spray on items that cannot be washed in a machine, including items listed above (car seats, bicycle helmets, furnishings, etc.)

Feel free to leave your comments and let me know you've been here. Thanks.


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    • profile image

      Alicia 2 years ago

      I have an 8 year old who's had years of frustrating lice problems. To top it off she's going through eczema & psoriasis. So as you could imagine the stress we are going through. She's using a Salicylic Acid lotion for her psoriasis. So I'm hoping it helps with her lice too.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 2 years ago from California

      One of the kids I know did her master thesis on lice. They are awfully hard to get rid of. You did a great job with this hub.

    • Claudia Mathews profile image

      Claudia Mathews 2 years ago

      OMG! This brings back memories. Dealing with head lice was the most frustrating and stressful experience and I never want to go through it again. Its all laughable now ten years after the fact, but at the time I was ready to pull my hair out (and my children's hair too). Sure wish I'd known this solution then because I tried everything. This is such a great Hub.

    • emi sue profile image

      Emily Lantry 3 years ago from Tennessee

      I thought this post was very informative and sounds a lot like the story I am dealing with right now. Every time I have thought they were gone they seem to pop back up out of nowhere. Finally it has been a week and I have not seen the first louse or a nit. Feeling very thankful. Dealing with these critters are a nightmare, really.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I do listerine ( off brand ) saturate the hair put shower cap on for 2 hours, then saturate the hair with vinegar and comb hair with lice comb .. It works great for us ... The hair smells bad for a few days but that's a small price to pay to not have critters on ur head :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      OTC products do not work. My girls came home with lice from gymnastics. They have long thick hair, and being that I use the same hairbrush as them, I too had a mild case of it; luckily considering my hair is past my bum. After treating with the OTC products, they returned 3 days later. Read online about listerine application for 2 hours covered by a shower cap; one week later and no critters. I just bought the suave shampoo and conditioner which we will all use as a preventative. Hopefully the first and last time to deal with these pests.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      will try your remedy on my son is buying the denorex and coconut shampoo,

      conditioner.....little girl sent home from school because of head lice...she is crying...will report to you....thank you very much...dear God, I trust that the remedy will work very successfully....

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I got lice when I was 16 & I had such long beautiful hair it was infested..My mom put DIESEL all over & I remember seeing them jump everywhere it was horrible..I had to cut my hair off to my ears & after many application of hair medication from the dr's it was horrible & I cried everyday for months

    • Appollonia profile image

      Appollonia 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for leaving a comment....good link too! :)

    • Appollonia profile image

      Appollonia 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I wouldn't recommend putting coal tar in your hair. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You're right, coconut is a strong repellent for head lice. You can use coconut oil or cocnut shampoo. Look at this page for more detailed info:

    • Appollonia profile image

      Appollonia 5 years ago

      @JoshK47: That they are.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I read on other sites to use the denerex with coal tar. Do you think this would work too?

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Unpleasant little critters, these are...

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      Even though I have three kids, I've never had to deal with head lice (thank you God). It's great you found an economical home remedy to run those annoying critters off!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Have a clean shaven head! ;) Nice lens and nice suggestions! :)