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Head Lice Treatments That Really Work

Updated on September 28, 2010

Get Rid of Head Lice

Your kids (and you) can get head lice no matter how often they wash and comb their hair. Once one family member has them, it's very easy for the whole family get infested. Chances are, your child will be barred from entering school until he or she is lice-free, so how do you get rid of the lice quickly, effectively, and permanently? Here's what you do...

Photo Credit: KostaMumcuoglu, Wikipedia

What Works Against Head Lice

You need to kill the lice living in the hair of whoever has them plus you need to address lice elsewhere in and around the home.

Killing Lice on the Head

Honestly, prescription medications don't work better than over-the-counter products, but they do tend to be more toxic to people, which is why you need the prescription. Some lice will die from the mildest of treatments, while resistant lice require fullblown chemical warfare. Here's a look at your options.

Mayonnaise: You can totally coat hair with mayo or with olive oil, wrap the head with plastic, and leave the product on overnight. Does it kill the lice? Maybe. It work, when it works, by preventing the lice from being able to intake air through their bodies, basically suffocating them. The eggs (nits) are still active, so new lice will hatch. The process needs to be repeated within a week to catch those lice before they are mature enough to lay more eggs. The downside is, the treatment isn't always effective and your hair will be a greasy disaster. The upside is, it's the least toxic method out there, except for one.

Combing: This is a non-toxic method, plus it works. The downside is, it takes forever to use a comb and fingernails to remove adult lice and scrape nits from very full or very long hair. You can buy lice combs at most pharmacies. Another option is to use an inexpensive pet flea comb. It greatly helps to apply a nit-loosening gel to the hair. Some people have success applying conditioner to the hair to plump it up so the nits can't slip through the comb. You use the comb by systematically going through the hair. Expect some split ends and damage.

Lice-Killing Shampoos: These contain an insecticide that usually kills adult lice within 10 minutes. The product needs to be re-applied within a week to kill lice that hatch from the nits. I'd love to be able to tell you the pesticides always work, but... they don't. You may need to resort to combing. Now, there is another option here, too... you can use cat/kitten shampoo for fleas/ticks/lice. Cats are very sensitive to toxic pesticides, so their products tend to be safer than products intended for dogs/puppies or for people. It's not an approved use, to apply a cat shampoo, but it tends to work. With any lice-killing shampoo, be aware you're using a potentially toxic chemical. Only use these products with adult supervision.

Zapping Head Lice

Koolatron Electronic Pet Flea Zapping Comb
Koolatron Electronic Pet Flea Zapping Comb

Yes, I know it's a flea comb. That doesn't mean you can't use it for lice instead of fleas. The beauty of this comb is it electrocutes head lice. You can hear it zap lice and I'm pretty sure it kills unhatched nits, too. With a normal comb you have to remove the critters to kill them. Bugs can't escape this comb since it kills on contact.


Treating Your Home

Lice Beyond the Head

It's nasty, but it's true. Lice aren't just on the head. The only way to make sure they are gone and stay gone is to make sure the house is treated for lice.

Combs & Brushes: These need to be treated. The easiest thing to do is dip them in boiling water.

Bedding & Clothes: Clean sheets, pillowcases, coats, hat, and any clothes that might have been exposed to lice.

Furniture: There are insecticidal products that you can spray on sofas and chairs to kill any lice that may be lying in wait. If you aren't up for spraying poison on your furniture, there are natural insect repellents that you can use. Look in the pet aisle of the store for natural flea and tick repellents. As with fleas, vacuuming and steam-cleaning are effective at removing adults.

Do you have questions or comments about this lens or have advice for ways to get rid of head lice? Sign the guestbook!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      something an old time doctor told me years ago is to spray a disinfectant spray(walmart brand works to) on bedclothes,pillows,stuffed animals, etc daily while infected with lice along with combing and treatments! it has worked for us during school year I always spray beds down to lower any chance! must say we have been lice free for 8+ years :)

    • profile image

      topbuilderlist 5 years ago

      This is great....more youngters will benefits on it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      We are havin a recurring problem with head lice. Only with my daughter. She's been treated numerous times and she's getting checked daily if Not weekly and we still are finding head lice. Any tips?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      you can use a machine called the louse buster that kills them all in one time. With out the use of chemicals of old food products from your fridge. just google LouseBuster

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      They are really nasty little creatures... School with clothes touching in wardrobes and kids playing video games together are ideal for lice...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very good information in this lens. It is important that people understand that the scalp absorbs a large amount of the substances we put on it. This is why home remedies, although they might not work as well as shampoos or lotions, are usually safer. Parents need to find a balance between safety and efficiency.

    • PamelaU profile image

      PamelaU 6 years ago

      In the UK, there are frequent outbreaks of headlice, and the advice is to comb through as often as possible and send your child to school with their hair tied back. Unfortunately, lice are endemic, so if you keep children off while they have lice, schools would shut and we'd have an illiterate population!

    • nitwitseattle lm profile image

      nitwitseattle lm 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Yeah, I have to agree that the Cetaphil treatment works best, is the most gentle and most easy to do! I should know - I treat families for their head lice infestations as a professional.

    • nitwitseattle lm profile image

      nitwitseattle lm 6 years ago

      @lemonsqueezy lm: It makes sense to keep kids home if they have live lice, but as I've blogged about, no-nits policies don't do anybody any good, because even if an egg hatched while a child was at school,that baby is not going to survive off of the head, and it's definitely not going to fall off.

    • lemonsqueezy lm profile image

      lemonsqueezy lm 7 years ago

      My only comment is reagarding the new decision that I keep hearing about to NOT keep head lice kids from school. OMG - keep the head lice at home... it is too hard to get rid of.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      when my stepdaughter came home with headlice we tried everything to get rid of them...but these ones were resistant to the treatments! we picked every egg off her head thru each individual hair yet we still had the problem. Finally i bought a hair straightener and made sure i pulled the eggs away from the scalp and burned them with the straightener. A few times of this...they are gone for good! Of course you have to kill the live ones first, and vacuuming and put away everything soft for 2 weeks and boil water for all hair items.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      We used Cetaphyl Cleanser. Worked great was non toxic and was fairly inexpensive. What I did was applied to hair with a lice comb starting on the bottom back layer and moving up the head layer by layer.Once applied dry with a blowdryer til dry. This takes a long time but it seems to seal in the suckers. Rinse it out in the am and then comb again layer by layer. Then wash as normal. One week later repeat this process. I found this was the least hazardous. It also didn't seem to damage the hair of badly as other means

    • profile image

      gardenlady 8 years ago

      Nice lens. My daughter (who has very long thick hair) got lice at camp over the summer. I didn't think we'd ever get rid of them. You're right, the over the counter stuff didn't work, and the comb that came with the treatment was useless. I ended up getting a prescription that she had to leave on for 8 hours. It did kill the lice, but it was highly toxic and gave warnings about fainting & breathing difficulty from the fumes. I ended up spending hours hand picking the nits out of her hair. Now I know where to come for the RIGHT kind of comb if she ever get them again. Thanks for taking the time to make this lens.


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