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Killing Head Lice - Not as Easy as You'd Think

Updated on March 13, 2011

Killing Head Lice is Ridiculously Hard

A few years ago I never thought much about head lice. I thought it was some random problem that some kids have that I never had to worry about. I was wrong. When the offspring came home from school with head lice, I ran to the store to get the lice shampoo that the school told me would get rid of lice. Then, the trouble began.

The problem with killing head lice with lic shampoo is that it doesn't actually work. A lot of people don't know that lice shampoo is composed of either of two over-the-counter lice poisons, and both have been used long enough that most lice are immune to them. I found out that as many as 80 percent of the head lice in North America and Europe are now immune to these poisons. 

So, we tried one lice shampoo. It barely worked. We tried another. It barely worked. We tried them again and again. We had bloody noses and our hair turned gray in patches. The poisons are rough on the lungs, eyes and hair, and they don't work. Things seemed pretty grim- and gross. 

Lice Killing Techniques

After the poisons failed, we got online and found out about all of the lice treatments available, most of which required a lice comb. Using a lice comb can be rough- even painful. They have to be used almost constantly to get rid of lice, and even then some are left behind. You can comb a child's hair with a lice comb for hours a day and still leave one louse behind. That one louse can then lay hundreds of eggs in just a couple of weeks and then the lice infestation is back. 

The lice treatments that work the best are ones that drown and suffocate the lice over a period of several hours. The lice can hold their breath for such a long time that a thick liquid has to be left on the entire scalp for hours and hours in order to suffocate them. This is a messy process, but it's the only thing that can be counted on to get rid of lice for good. 

To suffocate and kill lice, the use a thick oil or lotion and comb the hair with a lice comb in between the other lice treatments. The entire process will likely take at least two weeks to kill all of the lice and to make sure that the eggs that hatch are killed as well.

It may sound awful, and it is, but killing lice is much harder than the happy commercials with smiling, lice-free kids make it seem. It takes diligence and patience to make it happen, but even a terrible lice infestation can be cured with the right lice treatments. 

Home Remedies for Lice

There are dozens of home remedies for lice, some of which work and some of which amy only control the itching. Mouthwash, mayonnaise, Vaseline, olive oil, soap-less cleanser and vinegar are all used to kill lice.

Virtually anything that can be kept on the scalp for a full eight hours will work, but some have unwanted side effects. Some oils can aggravate acne. Other substances have unpleasant odors that can make it difficult to leave them on for the full time period. Some, particularly the thicker oils, can be hard to get out of the hair when the time is up. 

Some parents have to try several lice killing methods before they find the right one that works and is not too unpleasant for their children. 


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