ATTENTION: Possible Threat of Head Lice!!
It’s not the first time this year that we’ve had friends inform us apologeticly that they’ve found head lice in their children’s hair after we’ve spent quality time together. It’s rather common when you have school aged children and everyone knows it. So, rather calmly I might add, I checked my kids hair (while scratching at my scalp of course!) Nothing! Whew!
Then I started to think about how painful it was when I had lice as a adult travelling in South America. After multiple shampoo treatments, spending hours a day sitting while someone pulled at my scalp and hair picking nits out one by one, and then multiple shampoo treatments again – over the course of two and a half months I finally was rid of my little biting enemies! I must admit my experience turned out to be rather emotionally troubling not to mention physically damaging. So I naturally began to research ingredients in many of the commercial lice shampoos. For more details see my blog post What I didn’t know about lice shampoo! So let’s get to the nitty gritty of the issue (pardon the pun!)…
There are several facts about lice that are helpful to know as you work to get rid of them and to prevent them from spreading.
- Adult lice can live for only 24-48 hours off a human body.
- Adult lice do not jump or fly so they can only be spread by direct contact, usually direct head to head contact, but it is possible (although unlikely) for them to spread via hats, hair brushes or pillow cases.
- Nits (egg phase) can live off a human head for 10 days, but must feed within 45 minutes of hatching or they will die.
- Lice live for about a month.
- Nits (eggs) take 10-12 days to hatch.
- Nymphs (young lice) take 10 days to mature. Before they mature they can not move from head to head and they can not lay eggs.
What you need to treat lice naturally:
– high quality nit comb – you need this to remove the lice and the nits
– Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil) – not only will this repel lice, it can also KILL them! It is a powerful antibacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory. Safe for expecting mothers, children and babies.
– Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – as a conditioner.
Additional Essential Oils (Optional):
– Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) – Another antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, essential oil that is amazing for skin conditions and reducing irritation or itching. Safe for expecting mothers, children and babies.
– Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – A powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and pain relieving essential oil. Peppermint is used for various skin conditions as well (itchy skin, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis). Safe for expecting mothers, children and babies.
How to Eliminate Lice from your home and family:
1. Each day wet comb the hair of every member of the household. (full details on how to wet comb below) If someone has hair shorter than 1/2 inch, a thorough visual check will suffice.
Wet comb everyone. Those little critters can and will move and in the nymph stage they can be as small as a pin head. If you miss one and there are children involved, you run the risk of them spreading. The oil (or conditioner) that you use to wet comb will stun the lice so that they won’t be able to move and avoid being combed out of the hair.
As an extra precaution you can check each person for at least 3 day after they showed no signs of lice activity (no lice, no nymphs, no nits). This is not necessary, you may just check until a person is completely clear for one day.
After a person is ‘clear’, wait 7 days then wet comb again (if they are not clear, wet comb each day until they are clear). Then, wait 7 more days and wet comb again. Based on the life cycle of lice, you will need to wet check over a series of 3 weeks.
2. Discontinue using brushes and hair bows for 3 days
Lice should die within 24-48 hours and there should not be any nits on these items. If you wish to be extra cautious, you can boil items that will withstand it OR wait 10 days before using them again.
Then only ‘clear’ people should use these items. Designate a couple of combs for those who are not ‘clear’ and boil or check them regularly.
3. When you first discover lice, run bedding through the washer and dryer on the hot setting.
Use your discretion depending upon how wide spread the problem is. You may wish to wash clothing as well.
4. Put 5-20 drops of tea tree essential oil into all bottles of shampoo used by your household.
Tea Tree is an effective lice repellent, so this step will prevent the spread of lice.
5. Each day run all bedding from those with evidence of lice through the hottest setting on your dryer. (Just an extra precaution – well worth it don’t you think?)
Other helpful tips:
- Your children may be interested in trying a new haircut that provides shorter hair to comb out. I know it is a lot to ask, but it’s worth a try!
- Keep long hair braided to discourage the lice spreading.
- Diluting Tea Tree Oil – if you purchase the pure essential oil (with no carrier oils such as grape seed or sunflower oils added) you will need to dilute it 1:1 (or equal parts) with a carrier oil (olive oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil) before use.
- You can add the diluted Tea Tree oil in a small spray bottle to apply directly onto the hair near the scalp. (DO NOT use undiluted tee tree oil directly on skin as is too strong and can cause irritation).
Method for wet combing with the lice comb:
You may use the Lice Treatment Essential Oil Blend I’ve provided below or use large quantities of conditioner.
The conditioner will stun the lice so that they don’t crawl around the head and therefore avoid your combing efforts. The essential oil recipe should also stun the lice, but it will also kill them and the coconut oil should loosen the ‘glue’ that lice use to hold their eggs in place on the hair shaft.
- Divide hair into 1-2 inch square segments. We found that dividing hair on a portion of the head, combing it and then moving on to another portion of the head was most efficient. Use larger segments for thinner hair and smaller for thicker hair.
- Taking one segment at a time apply essential oil mix or conditioner to scalp and hair close to the scalp.
- Thoroughly comb through that segment. Be sure you run the nit comb along the curve of the scalp. Lice will be close to the scalp and nits will be on the hair shaft about 1/4 inch from the scalp. Comb once or twice starting with the nit comb at the top of the segment, then comb once or twice starting with the nit comb on the right side of the segment, then once or twice starting at the bottom of the segment and finish with once or twice starting at the left side of the segment. The point is for that nit comb to touch every part of that scalp and run through every bit of hair, especially hair close to the scalp.
Lice Treatment Essential Oil Blend
4 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
4 drops Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
4 drops Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Mix the essential oils together then combine with 1 cup of Virgin Coconut Oil. The Coconut Oil works to smother and stun the lice and helps to comb through easily to remove the nits. Comb through as described above.
Option: You can also mix the essential oils together and add them to 1 cup of vinegar and a pitcher of warm water. Pour it over your scalp and rinse with warm water. Comb through for lice and repeat as necessary.
– The Olive’s Oils blog – http://raisingolives.com/oils/treating-lice-naturally-with-essential-oils/
– Essential Oil Desk Reference / Fifth Edition / 2011, page 5.96, 5.128, 2.51, 2.73, 2.59
– Aromatherapy for Babies and Children by Shirley Price
*The information on this page has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. – See more at: http://www.riverstonestudios.ca/e-store/index.php?id_product=51&controller=product&id_lang=1#sthash.Ox8sVPwY.dpuf