It was one of the worst moments of the school year growing up. Having the medical staff come in to check for lice became a who’s who of those who would continue to be popular and those who would wind up with the forever stigma of being found with lice. The instant you got pulled out for a second examination, you were done. Thankfully knowing how to get rid of lice today makes this annual event much less painful.
It can’t be said enough: lice don’t show up because you’re not taking care of yourself. They are spread by direct head-to-head contact with someone who has these insects on their scalp. These pests only live for about 3 weeks at a time and their eggs, called nits, are attached to hair follicles. Eggs cannot spread to other people.
Lice need a host in order to live. If a bug falls off of someone’s head, then it is very likely going to die. That’s because it needs a human in order to survive. The lice that people get cannot live on animals. They need a drop of blood every day to keep surviving, so they’ll use their claws to hold onto hair follicles instead of walking onto a hat. It is very rare to get lice from sharing a hat. It most commonly spreads by sharing a pillow at night with someone.
Clothes, stuffed animals, or furniture are not threats to spread head lice. Washing clothing, sheets, or taking baths every day won’t stop lice from taking up residence. Even bagging up toys or thoroughly cleaning a home isn’t going to help. When there are lice present, up to 150 eggs are going to get laid over the next month. Removing the nits and using lice removal methods are the best ways to stop these pests.
Signs and Symptoms of Lice
Itching is the #1 symptom of lice. Because itching also occurs when there is dry skin on the scalp, the presence of itching doesn’t mean lice are there. Dandruff may even look like a nit, but when you touch dandruff, it will move. The eggs of lice do not move at all. If someone has never had lice before, it may take up to 6 weeks for the itching to start.
Sometimes having lice will create the feeling of a light tickle on the head. You know how a light breeze can ruffle your hair? It’s like that feeling, but happening all of the time.
Allergic reactions can occur without itching as well. If there are numerous red welts on the scalp, the back of the neck, or even down near the shoulders with long hair, then lice may be present. The constant itching that lice causes may also cause similar sores.
The best way to treat lice is to prevent it from spreading in the first place. Avoiding head-to-head contact is the best treatment option. Once lice are present, however, there are some proven ways to get rid of these insects over time that will stop the problem.
How To Kill Lice
Killing lice is often a three-step solution.
- Daily hair combing can help to remove the insects and their eggs. A special lice comb is necessary to make this happen.
- Non-prescription shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrethrin can be used regularly to kill adult insects.
- Prescription medications, such as malathion or lindane, can be rubbed into the scalp to kill the lice. Some of these medications are also formulated into shampoos.
Children who are under the age of 2 should not be using these treatment methods, however, so good home health habits are important. To kill lice before they become a problem, it is highly recommended to use hot water above 130F to regularly launder all items that are around the toddler. Soapy detergent is also necessary, as is at least 20 minutes in the dryer on the hot setting.
As OTC shampoos generally contain ingredients that will irritate a toddler’s skin, parents can start working those lice out and killing them off by washing the child’s hair in vinegar. Do a full vinegar wash like you would with regular shampoo. Then take a washcloth that has been soaked in vinegar and run it along the length of the hair in small sections. You might even consider using a vinegar-soaked comb to run through the hair. Then wash it out with regular shampoo to remove the odor. This can remove many of the nits and wash them down the drain.
When these methods are combined with a special nit comb, lice can be effectively removed from the scalp without any medications. Although this is great for children under the age of 2, it also works for everyone.
Stubborn lice that can’t be controlled by at-home methods will come under control thanks to prescription medications. The medicine changes the chemistry of the body slightly, making it less attractive to the lice. Eventually, they stop feeding or laying eggs and that means you’re lice free. Some lice have grown immune to common over-the-counter treatments, so this may be your only alternative for lice that just won’t go away.
Lindane is the last resort treatment to kill lice. It’s been discovered that lindane can cause neurological problems, so it isn’t recommended unless every other OTC and prescription alternative has been used. It is almost never prescribed to children because of its side effects.
If there was just one thing you could do to kill lice, it would be to comb them out using the special combs. It removes the insects and dislodges the eggs from the hair. With 2x-3x combings every day, the insects can be brought under control pretty rapidly.
DIY Lice Control
Controlling lice at home involves regular OTC shampoos, combing, and sprays that may be used on items that may have the insects on them. All three items are often utilized for DIY lice control that is effective.
Nit Free Louse and Egg Comb
Instead of using a plastic nit comb that may break on you after a few uses, this particular comb will keep on going strong. It’s made from stainless steel, so it isn’t going to tarnish on you either when exposed to wet hair. The teeth of the comb have micro-grooves on them, making it a simple process to comb through each follicle and remove the nits and lice that are present. These combs can be used on all hair types, including fine hair. It will be one of your most effective weapons against this pest.
Licefreee Instant Head Spray
This non-toxic spray formula also includes a nit comb, but what makes this product so attractive is that you don’t have to rinse it out. It’s both environmentally safe and homeopathic. You won’t have to worry about putting pesticides on your head or your child’s head just to get rid of the bugs. It works on contact to kill the lice and it makes their eggs vulnerable to combing. It does contain benzyl alcohol and sodium chloride, however, so make sure to use this product as instructed. You can apply it as often as needed… and enjoy the scent of licorice afterward.
LiceMD Complete Kit
This lice and egg treatment is also pesticide free and it’s clinically proven to work. Unlike other formulas, this one is completed odorless. Once it is applied, it will continue to keep working so that the lice don’t stand a chance of surviving. It has the possibility of completely eliminating lice with just one treatment and a combing. It’s active ingredient is dimethicone, which causes the insects to become disorientated enough that they stop normal living activities. You’ll need to comb out the nits, which are loosened by the treatment, and provides complete results in as little as 48 hours.
Cost of Lice Control
Many parents don’t want to take chances with a lice infestation. They just want to have it completely gone. For that reason, they’ll contact local medical professionals to comb out the nits and apply the medical treatments to the scalp to eliminate the bugs. It’s an effective solution, but it’s also a costly one. Each treatment session may cost upwards of $400 and several sessions may be necessary to completely remove the pests.
DIY solutions are just as effective and some of them don’t even require combining. Comparing the price points and how tight the family budget tends to be, it’s easy to see why many home options are being tried and medical options for killing lice are being used as a last resort.
You can do everything right and still not stop lice from entering into your home. The #1 thing you can do is to encourage your child to avoid head-to-head contact with others. You don’t necessarily want to assume that every child has lice, but it only takes one contact for the pests to spread. Avoid immediately sharing hats, but most warnings about not being around people with lice are false. Sitting on a couch where someone with lice has been sitting is not going to spread the insects.
Regular inspections are also useful for preventing lice. Take a bright light 2x per month and inspect everyone’s hair within the home. Look for the presence of the insects – the adults are large enough to see with the human eye. The tiny eggs will look like dandruff that is attached to the hair follicle. If you see them, begin treatments immediately.
Some may recommend coating your furniture in plastic for 2-3 weeks, laundering bedding daily, and bagging up stuffed animals and toys until the infestation has subsided. These actions are not generally necessary. A child would need to place a toy on their head and then directly place that toy on the head of someone else with lice present on the toy to spread the pests. The odds of this happening are extremely low.
Natural Lice Treatments
If you don’t like the idea of putting pesticides on your head and want to avoid the other DIY substance treatments, then invest into a good nit comb and follow these steps.
- Purchase a high-grade olive oil. Darker olive oils work better than lighter olive oils. You’ll want to coat your hair with the oil and then let it sit for about 8 hours. Lice can hold their breath for that long, so the oil will need to stay in place long enough to suffocate the insects.
- Use the nit comb. Using the comb, go through all of the hair to remove nits. You may also remove a number of lice at the same time. Take small sections of hair at a time to search for nits. Missing just one can prolong the treatment process.
- Rinse. Thoroughly rinse out your hair with warm water. You may wish to consider submerging your scalp in warm water for a few extra minutes in case there are some lice with good air capacity.
- Repeat. You may need to repeat this daily for 7-14 days depending on how many nits are removed from the hair.
For boys, another option to treat lice is to shave the head. When there aren’t any hair follicles present, it becomes impossible for the insects to lay their eggs. The insects can be easily brushed off in the bathroom, making for an easy resolution. Some parents have found success by having their children sport extremely short haircuts during the school year.
Lice cannot fly. They do not jump. They will die within hours of being off the scalp. Unlike other pests, they don’t transmit diseases. This makes lice a nuisance more than anything. Knowing how to get rid of lice means avoiding head-to-head contact, regular nit combing, and other preventative measures that will control the population. Use this guide and you’ll be able to get rid of this pest sooner rather than later.