- Kids Health
How to treat head lice without chemicals: natural treatments for nits!
How to kill head lice
Part of the glamour and fun of parenthood comes when your little darling keeps scratching his or her head. On investigation, you discover (oh joy!) that the light of your life has head lice. Obviously, you want to get rid of them, as easily, quickly and cheaply as possible, and by killing the lice at no risk to your child or you.
Some of the chemicals used in treatments for head lice are pretty nasty. There is the obvious fact that if they kill lice, they might not be terribly good for tender skin, and can be absorbed through the skin, too.
And a lot of them don't work, or work partially, so a few weeks later, you once again have little parasites crawling around the head. Nice!
Increasing immunity means that head lice treatment is getting tougher with chemicals.
But you don't have to use the expensive, unreliable chemical head lice removal treatments. With a little persistence, and little cost, you can get rid of them for good.
This article shows you how to treat the whole family for head lice without worrying about the effect of insecticides and pesticides contained in many over-the-counter creams, lotions, shampoos and treatments.
Head lice, nits, and eggs
Pediculus humanus, or head lice, aren't very nice. But although they can be upsetting, and make the head itchy and uncomfortable, they don't spread diseases, so don't worry about that.
There are three stages for head lice - eggs (or nits), larvae, and adults.
An adult is usually about the size of a sesame seed, and a grey-brown colour. Adults and young lice look very similar, except the young lice are smaller.
Eggs hatch about a week after being laid, and larvae (which feed on the scalp, but don't breed) turn into adults about a week after hatching.
If they stay on the head, adults live about a month. They die within about 48 hours if away from the head.
Head lice can't jump, fly, or survive for long away from the human host.
What you need to treat head lice without chemicals
In order to get rid of head lice without chemical treatments, you need a good louse comb / lice comb, and a large bottle of cheap hair conditioner.
A lice comb isn't the same as a normal comb - the teeth are much closer together. Using a normal comb won't work to get rid of head lice.
Plastic louse combs tend to be cheaper, but the teeth are more likely to bend quickly and therefore become ineffective. Metal combs are more long-lasting and reliable. There's not much point buying a plastic one, go straight for a proper one.
The best combs seem to be the special, slightly twisted-steel ones known as "NitFree comb" in the UK, and "NitFree Terminator Lice Comb" in the USA. Ive used a standard one on my son and daughter, and also this one, and far more eggs are removed with the NitFree comb.
You can also buy electric ones for use on dry hair, that zap head lice when they touch them.
For the conditioner, there's no point splashing out lots of cash. What you want is a huge bottle of the cheap stuff, because you'll need a lot of it.
Procedure for treating head lice with a head lice comb
You need to treat the whole family. Chances are, the infestation started with a child, but he generously shared the head lice with his parents, siblings, and any other relatives who got close enough.
Here is the step-by-step procedure that worked very well for head lice treatment in my family:
- Brush the dry hair, then comb with a normal comb;
- Wet the hair, then towel-dry it;
- Apply a good helping of conditioner - you want it to be really thick all over the hair, not just to make combing easier, but because it stops the lice moving about and escaping your comb;
- Comb the hair with a normal comb, to de-tangle it;
- For men and boys, you can usually then just comb through the hair in one go with the louse comb, rinsing the comb between each stroke so as not to put anything back in the hair;
- For girls, women, or men / boys with longer hair, do it in segments. It's easier to start at the ends, to make sure it doesn't tangle, and do small part of the hair at one time. Once it has all be combed through once, the whole head can then be done to remove all lice and eggs;
- Wash the conditioner out of the hair.
Because the eggs and very young lice are tiny, even the best nit comb will miss a few. With a standard metal comb, I found that there were lice for several consecutive days, although the numbers were going down very rapidly.
The eggs, in particular, are hard to remove, so you should comb the head every day or every other day until you have several consecutive days with nothing found.
Once I bought the NitFree comb as above, far more eggs were removed, and it meant the whole process was much faster.
I've also used a herbal shampoo which is supposed to discourage lice from setting up camp in the first place. It's hard to tell if it works, but it's a nice shampoo anyway, and certainly can't do any harm.