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What gets rid of head lice

Updated on August 9, 2011

What the little critters look like

Life cycle
Life cycle
how small they really are!
how small they really are!
A good comb
A good comb
hard to see, but it's there!
hard to see, but it's there!

How sad is this!

Listening to my daughters one day I heard one say “Let’s play school”, then I heard “Ok, You have head lice you gotta go home”. How sad was that? Well it stands to reason this is how they would feel, if your children had head lice for 5 years in a row. 

The most popular myth is that head lice are found only on dirty people.  This is SO not true!  Head lice love clean hair!  They can move through it more easily.

The first time I discovered them I went into a panic. They were discovered on my youngest daughter who would spend hours standing if front of the mirror combing her hair. She did a little scratching, so I looked. What I found with horror were zillions of those little creatures! Ok, I’m sure there weren’t a zillion, but you get the idea, more than 1 might as well be a zillion in the head lice world.

The first thing I did was run out to the store and purchase some of those expensive shampoos and treat her hair. Using the little comb provided I combed her hair and combed til it felt as though my arms were gonna fall off. I thought I was good for a few days. Not even 3 days later I discovered more on her head. At $10 a pop I couldn’t keep this up!

Engine Degreaser?

I slathered her hair in Vaseline, figuring if nothing else, to slow down their movements.   My husband took her to the store with him and was terribly embarrassed to be seen with this greasy headed child.  He stopped off to the local auto parts store and pointed to her head and asked “Do you have anything to get this gunk out of her hair?”  So they sold him a can of engine degreaser.  Yep, it worked.  Her hair was soft, shiny and Vaseline free, as well as no bugs.

I felt good!  Crisis averted.  That didn’t last long, the next thing I knew all 3 of my girls had it.  Again I went to the store to purchase those expensive hair treatments.  This time it running me well over $30.  For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to use engine degreaser on my kids again.

Year one

So for the next year I battled head lice.  It became tradition to sit in front of the TV at night while I nit picked their hair.  Summer would come and of course all the head lice was gone, so we had a few months reprieve.

School would start and within a few weeks they would be scratching once more.  Being the vigilant Mother that I am, of course I’d report what I’d found.  That seemed to be a mistake on my part, because my children then became the target.  Daily they were brought down to the office to be checked.  No other students were checked, which of course brought embarrassment to my daughters.

They were obviously getting it from somewhere, but the school refused to bring students down to check them.  I started cutting their hair, thinking that if I could make it shorter, it would be less likely they’d get head lice.  I would be gone only to be back a month later, from no eggs or nits to full grown lice. 

I talked to my girls, asking if they were sharing combs or brushes, touching other peoples hair, wearing someone else clothes.  All to no avail, they kept returning.  Finally I could take it no more and I shaved the sides and backs of their heads.  This is where lice seem to congregate, in the warm spots.  I did manage to get a friend to help in the nit picking, we’d sit on the porch on bright sunny days, looking for nits.  Those are the little tiny eggs that stick to the hair shaft and after about 10 days, hatch.

Year two

To remove the nits is a task, you literally have to grasp the egg and try to slide it off the hair shaft.  I tried chemicals to make the egg glue come unstuck.  I was told vinegar works, I didn’t see it helped at all.  Using an old wives tale I’d spray kerosene from a spray bottle on the hair, let it set then try to get the eggs out.  Once I mentioned to the Principal what I’d been doing I thought she’d have heart failure.  Apparently you aren’t supposed to use kerosene. 

After every other attempt failed I went back to the Vaseline, after slathering it in their hair I’d use plastic caps so they didn’t get their beds greasy.  This did work, it was just embarrassing to have grease in their hair for 10 days or so until it washed out.

They no longer had any toys to play with, I had bagged them all up and put them in storage.  Washing sheets and blankets became a daily ritual.  Having the kids do the ‘laundry room shuffle’ helped.  My washer was on one side of the house, while my dryer on the other.  Pillows were always kept fluffy, in order to kill head lice I was told that heat works best, so into the dryer they went at least once a week.

Vacuuming and carpet cleaning became routine.  I even checked the dog for lice, though I was told she couldn‘t get them, I still did it.  I’d buy the little metal combs because they lasted longer than the ones that looked like razors.  I even went so far as to buy a battery operated ‘zapper’ comb.  If there was a bug it would electrocute them, it only worked on the live bugs, not the eggs.

Other children would come to visit, my kids would check their hair as soon as they would get there.  If they had bugs, they would get sent home and my combs usually disappeared at that time.  So I’d have to buy a new one.

I took them to the Doctors office and was written a prescription for a special lice shampoo, that did work for a while.  Until one of the kids at the school got near my kids.  I even tried vacuuming the hair with a heavy duty vacuum.  This removed the live bugs, but not the eggs.  I used tea-tree oil, first slathering their hair in it then adding it to my shampoo, this helped some but was not a ‘cure all’.  I fed them garlic and LOTS of it, this too helped some but did not keep them away.  The garlic will emit from the skin and the lice don’t like it.  It helps on dogs to keep away fleas too!

We felt like a family of chimpanzees, constantly checking each others heads.  We’d line up and check each others, from front to back.  It was either laugh or cry so I chose to laugh as much as I could.  Every now and then I’d cry from exhaustion. 

Year 3

Into the 3rd year of having head lice and going back up to the school yet again to pick them up, I looked around and noticed that there were no other student waiting to be picked up.  I asked about this, they replied “Well, there have been no other parents complaining about it, just you.”  Oh come on!  With treatment like this, no wonder!

I finally complained enough that they did a whole school check and to my satisfaction almost half the students were sent home.  After much diligence on my part I got the school head lice free!  We were head lice free for almost a year and a half. 

New School

Then we moved.

Once in the new school things were running smoothly, until I noticed my oldest daughter scratching. Oh Good Lord Not Again! Yes, they were there. I treated her and did some nit picking, there weren’t many, so I didn’t go into a panic, yet.

I went to the school and had a private word with the Principal, to find out who the child was that shared a locker with my daughter, and have them check her. Again, they did not do this. There seems to be some stigma regarding head lice at the schools. If you are the one reporting it, you are the ones they look at.

My Adies Tonic Pupil was getting a little worse so I couldn’t see the eggs as well as I used to. But I did make another friend who had excellent eye sight. Her kids went to the same school and of course she wanted to help me. She also did volunteering at the school, so she did some head checks as well. It almost became epidemic at this school as well, in fact the whole county was under alert because of it.

All it takes is one stupid parent!

They were considering closing the schools down until it got under control.  This put the fear of God into the parents and made them do something about it.  Most of the families in this district had 2 working parents, most of the moms worked.  If the school closed that meant they couldn’t go to work because the day care centers would be involved too.

During the summer of our last year in that district a little friend of my youngest daughter came over, she went to a private school.  I checked my daughters head and sure enough she had big bugs.  With a sigh I ran to the store to buy a big container or Vaseline, and load up her hair.  The little girl wanted me to check her head, so I did.  Oh boy, did she have the bugs!  I was going to just send her home, but she wanted me to treat her hair as well.  I had her call her parents to tell them what I was going to do, I talked to the father and he said “Do what ya gotta do”.  So I greased up her hair as well. 

This did not sit well with the mother, she was livid!  I didn’t understand her complaint, since I was the one who discovered them and they sure did need to be treated with as many as the child had.   I thought at the very least since she worked at a Doctors office, she would know how important it is to get them out.  Then she said something that astounded me “My daughter is PRONE to head lice and there is nothing that can be done”.  Will stupidity never cease?

If just 1 person felt that way there had to be more!  Now I understood why the head lice was such a problem.  It was the ignorance of some people.  There is no such thing as being prone to head lice.  It is a parasite that can be dealt with, and should be dealt with.  Working at a Doctors office she should know these things.  As sad as it was to say I had to nip the friendship in the bud.  There could be no more sleepovers, I made sure that during the day, all of my daughters hair were put up as best as I could.  Pony tails, braids whatever it took to keep the little critters away.

Best Advice!

My best advice for getting rid of head lice?  Vigilance on your part as a parent!  Pick those eggs out, if you don’t they will be right back within 10 days, that‘s all it takes for an egg to hatch.  Use Vaseline on their hair.  At the very least baby oil.  The nits start out rather clear and as they develop they get a little darker.

To do this, comb out their hair, remove and many live ones as you can get.  Slather their hair COMPLETELY with Vaseline, pile it on top of the head and cover the hair with a plastic shower cap.  If the Vaseline is kept on the head for a good 30 days, the lice WILL be gone.  It smothers them an makes them unable to move or lay eggs.

Put all stuffed animals and toys that could possibly hold lice or their eggs in a garbage bag and if winter store outside for 10 days.  If it isn’t cold in your are, then storage for 30 days will do.   You could try throwing them in the dryer on high for an hour, but I am not positive this will work, and it may destroy them.

Wash in the hottest water possible ALL bedding.  Vacuum the beds once the sheets are removed.  Run pillows through 2 cycles of the highest heat in the dryer.  Vacuum the entire house, steam cleaning the carpet if they lay on the floor.  Vacuum the seats of your vehicle particularly if they are cloth seats.

Check the heads of children that come into your home.  If any are discovered, send them on their way, call the parents to tell them. 

Be Vigilant!

Once you have gotten rid of them, no more nits, no more bugs be vigilant!  Make sure the school does something!

Tell your school and make them to a whole classroom head check.  Stand there if you have to, to make sure it’s done.  If they refuse, call your local health department, the schools do not want to deal with them!

Once you have managed to rid yourself of them, check your child’s head WEEKLY and if at all possible have someone check your head as well.  When working on their hair make sure your hair is either up or covered.  The eggs are seen more easily in natural light, so sitting outside will give you a better chance at finding the eggs.  Go through the hair one section at a time, pinning the ‘cleaned’ hair out of the way.  Start at the top of the head and working your way down, is the best way to do it.  They will run, so you have to be fast!

Best of Luck to you!


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    • profile image

      cutie pie 3 years ago

      aww poor kids huh hehehe

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 5 years ago from Michigan

      I tried mayonnaise too, yep it does work fairly well.

    • profile image

      Tannonymous 5 years ago

      I hate those dang bugs!!! I have found that Mayonaise works great!!! Sounds nasty but they suffocate and its cheaper.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Nit combing and keeping things vacuumed will help, Set the kids in natural light, like the sunshine (when it is available) you will be able to see the eggs much easier than with lamp light. Best of Luck to you!

    • profile image

      jf 6 years ago

      thanx im hoping vaccuming and nit combing everyday will work

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Not a problem!! Glad you enjoyed!!

    • JasonPLittleton profile image

      JasonPLittleton 6 years ago

      Wow really goods, thanks for sharing.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      I know what you mean! My girls used to ask me "Mom, why are there Head Lice?" I told them "To show us a little humility"

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Ugh, these have to be the worst bugs ever!! My daughter suffered badly for years. I think they just loved her hair. Luckily we haven't seen any for about 3 years, so here's hoping they will NEVER return. Honestly, headlice and cockroaches, ewwwwww!!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      I had to laugh out loud with that one! Sorry, I know your pain! Pets... hehehehe Yeah, I know since I wrote this, I been itching.. I am so wanting to have someone to check my head! GUH!

      BTW, I forgot I did use flea and tick shampoos on the kids. LOLOLOL poor kids.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      sweetsusieg, omd! I felt like me and my kids were wandering the wilderness for years because of headlice and pentecostals. we attended a church where one family felt headlice were family pets. it took us threatening to leave to get them to confront the problem! we left anyway, but now my head is itching.

      use cheap flea and tick shampoo for dogs. foam mattresses must go! stuffed animals, and any foam pillow.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL, you are too funny!!! It's funny you should say that, earlier today my hubby was looking for his glasses... they were on his face!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      While reading this hub, susie, my head started itching, too. So I examined my hair carefully and you know what? I found something!

      I found what I had been looking for all day - my reading glasses! :)

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL, yeah it's bad isn't it! Now is the time of year that lice seem to be in the forefront of bugs. Ewwwww, they are yucky... made my head itch to write it! LOL

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      OMG, first bed bugs, now it's cooties. LOL