If you are tired of head lice and want to get rid of them at earliest, then you would love to know that there are plenty of home remedies that can kill lice. Lice are categorized in a few kinds, namely, head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. The most common of the three is the head lice, and it can happen to anyone, even the most hygienic person.
The body lice and pubic lice happen due to lack of personal hygiene and living in unclean conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 12 million lice infestations occur every year among the children aged between 3 to 11 years. Most of the cases occur in kids going to preschools and elementary school.
The head lice don’t easily get spread among the children, but the victims can invite other bacterial infections due to continuously scratching head because of itching. The uncommon transmission can occur due to several factors like using an infested towel, comb, or brushes. Mostly head lice get transferred if you get into close contact with the victim for a long time.
You can get rid of head lice by adopting some basic methods that have been found very helpful in killing more than 90% lice (1). Let’s look at the information about these insects and what it can do to your body. We have illustrated the best practices that will help you get rid of head lice.
Different Types of Lice
You must be wondering how the lice look. Well, lice are very tiny, parasitic insects that feed and grow on human blood. Lich can be found in different areas of the body and differ from each other in size. However, the size of lice varies from two to three millimeters. Since they don’t have wings to fly, therefore, they keep on crawling across your head. This makes an itching, and you tend to scratch your head intensely. There are three types of lice (2).
- Head Lice (Pediculus Humanus Capitis): The size of head lice is around 2.1 to 3.3mm in length. They develop on the scalp and neck. They lay their eggs on the base of the hair shafts. They crawl across the ears and neck areas as they don’t have wings.
- Body Lice: The size of full grown adult body lice measures 2.3 to 3.6mm in length. They live in clothes and bedding. They move to the skin for feeding human blood. Body lice can be found in places where people live in unhygienic conditions and don’t get regular bath and laundry. Body lice are quite dangerous as they can spread diseases.
- Pubic Lice: The size of adult full-grown pubic lice measures 1.1 to 1.8mm in length. They are also known as crabs and can be found across the hair and skin of the pubic Sometimes, they can be seen across body hair like eyebrows, chest, or eyelashes.
How do Head Lice Look Like?
Head lice grow in three forms and stages: the egg (also called nit), the nymph and the adult (3).
- Egg: The adult female head louse lays lice eggs. The eggs are safely laid beneath the hair shaft to support them. The nits are oval-shaped attached to the hair shaft and removable like a knot in the thread. It is hard to see through the naked Nits are white or yellow and often confused with dandruff or scabs. These head lice nits take 8-9 days to hatch. The eggs that are ready to hatch are located less than ¼ inch from the hair shaft base.
- Nymph: A nymph is the immature creature that comes out of the egg and looks like a head louse but comparatively smaller in size. The nymph feeds on human blood to live. It takes 9-10 days for a nymph to mature into an adult head louse.
- Adult: An adult head louse appears like a sesame seed. It has six legs and is greyish white. Adult lice also feed on blood to survive. They can live for 30 days on a person’s head but can die if they fall off from there. The female adult lice are larger in size as compared to the males and have the potential to lay up to six eggs every day.
So, when you are looking to get rid of the head lice, it is quite essential to kill it at an early stage. Killing the lice and eggs will be an effective process.
Lice Signs and Symptoms
The presence of lice on your head can be felt very soon. It is good to start early and look out for remedies for a proper cure before it gets too late. Some of the common symptoms are:
- A feeling of something moving across the hair
- Intense itching, caused by bites of louse
- Finding lice eggs on hair shafts
- Minute red bumps on the neck, scalp, and shoulders
- Difficulty in sleep, head lice are active during the night
- Sores on the head due to intense scratching, wounds can become infected by bacteria if left unattended.
At times, the live nits appear similar to the chair color, and it becomes impossible to differentiate. Sometimes lice eggs or nits are confused with dandruff. But, how to know the difference? When you brush out dandruff from your hair, lice remain there as they are bulky than dandruff (4).
Risk Factors Associated with Head Lice
Many people get confused about how did they get lice. But, the answer is quite straight forward. Head lice can travel from one person to another if the person is consistently in contact with an infected one. The school children are largely affected by the head lice. In schools, students tend to spend maximum time together, and the lice get transferred by a head to head contact among the individuals. Head lice can happen to any child of any age group irrespective of their hair length and socioeconomic background. It is more prevalent in girls than boys as girls possess long hair.
The head lice make a smooth transmission with the items that come in close contact with the body of another person. The transmission method is sensible as the lice crawl, and the lice eggs are so tiny like dandruff that they can be easily shed. The eggs can hatch without getting tempered. When it comes to lice risk factors, age is also considered as a risk factor. However, Pets like cats and dogs don’t spread lice.
Now, it’s time to know the methods by which you can get rid of head lice. There are various natural and conventional methods that can turn out to be an effective way to kill head lice. Some of the natural remedies have been found to be far more effective than conventional lice treatment. There is a famous saying that prevention is better than cure. These simple preventive measures can control the spreading of head lice in large numbers (5).
- Avoid any hair to hair contact during activities at home or play in the school playground
- Try not to share combs, towels, hats, scarves, sports uniform, hair ribbons, and coats
- Do not use the bed or pillows of an infested person
- Disinfect the combs used by the infested person by putting it in hot water for 10 minutes
- Use machine washing and dry clothing for the clothes worn by an infested person; apparels that are not washable can be drycleaned or seal packed and stored
- Avoid using fumigant sprays as they are toxic and can cause side effects over the skin
- Vacuum the furniture and floor used by the infested However, it seems to be challenging to look into furniture; therefore, regular cleaning is also sufficient.
Conventional Lice Treatment Through Chemicals
Qualified doctors perform the conventional lice treatment and prescribe certain medicines that can quickly kill the growing lice on your head. First of all, to determine the presence of these insects, the doctor looks at your hair carefully using a magnifying lens. Doctors usually take the help of wood’s light for examining the spots. A particular kind of lights helps the doctor to recognize the nits, as it makes the nits to appear pale blue. The conventional live treatment involves over-the-counter (OTC) topical medication that kills the lice and eggs.
However, it is quite difficult to kill the recently laid eggs as they are tiny and untraceable. To make it successful, the final round treatment is given after nine days. After nine days, the doctors again look for any trace of lice over your head. The doctors usually avoid using prescription treatment as it comes with more noticeable side effects as compared to the OTC method. You can opt for the following OTC chemical treatments:
1. Permethrin and Pyrethrin with Additives
Permethrin and pyrethrin with additional additives (Rid) are naturally occurring chemicals. There are some side effects of permethrin. It can cause itching, burning, stinging, redness, rash swelling of the scalp, and numbness. Meanwhile, pyrethrin additives make it more toxic. Both can kill the lice but not unhatched eggs. It can cause skin irritation, skin infection, stuffy nose, wheezing, sneezing attacks, and skin rash. It is permitted to be used on children aged two months and above. Pyrethrin consists of chemical compounds taken from the chrysanthemum flower (6).
2. Isopropyl Myristate and Cyclomethicone Solution
It is an insecticide that is used in the treatment of head lice. The lotion is left on the scalp for 10 minutes. Then, the light combine is done to remove lice from the head, followed by shampoo to remove the solution. This process is to be continued every week for best results. Children aged two or above can use this treatment (7).
3. Applying ylang-ylang Spray
Ylang-ylang (CAY) spray is a natural insecticide similar to Dimethicone. It consists of anise, coconut, and ylang-ylang oils. Apply the spray to the hair scalp and leave it for 15 minutes. Then comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb to remove lice. Repeat this treatment for seven days (8). This treatment is not recommended for kids below two years, and people with skin irritations.
4. Dimethicone Lotion
It is a silicon-based insecticide, which is not absorbed in the skin; hence, it is not much problematic for the skin. The lotion should be applied twice a week to see the best results. After applying the cream on the scalp, wait for 8 hours and then wash off with shampoo and water. The lotion is used to break the breathing tubes of lice, and this results in killing them; between 70 to 97% of patients got relief after two weeks (9).
5. Malathion Lotion
Malathion is a chemical used to get rid of head lice. The lotion can be used two times within a week to witness the best results. To get the desired results, you need to apply the lotion on the dry hair, until the hair gets wet. Leave it for 8 to 12 hours and then wash it off using shampoo and water. It is recommended for children aged six years or above. It also helps in paralyzing and killing both lice and eggs. The lotion should be kept away from flammable substances (10).
Effective Home Remedies to Get Rid of Head Lice
If you are not willing to use the chemical methods of treatment, then you may consider the alternative home remedies that can effectively help you in getting rid of head lice. However, there is no clinical evidence of 100% results of such treatments. The better are the procedures that make less recurrence chance of lice. The natural way to kill lice takes some effort, but the results can be satisfying in the end as there are fewer chances of any side effect on the body.
Below are some essential oils for lice that are readily available at home. The natural lice remedies may be cost-effective as you would have many of the mentioned ingredients already on hand. Here is a list of some practical solutions that will cure your problem of head lice:
1. Mayonnaise Oil
You will need Mayonnaise and shower cap. Rub the Mayonnaise oil gently on the scalp and cover it with a shower cap overnight. Take a bath the next morning. Repeat this process for a week for best results. Mayonnaise kills lice perfectly and has no side effects. However, there are no scientific studies that reveal the effectiveness of Mayonnaise, but several parents have been using this for treating head lice, and they are satisfied with the results of this home remedy (11).
2. Olive Oil
Apply olive oil throughout your hair and scalp. Keep it covered overnight with a shower cap. Wash your hair with warm water and comb with a nit removal comb. Repeat this once a week. Olive oil is known for killing adult head lice and remove nits from the hair (12).
3. Tea Tree Oil
Use a few drops of tea tree oil on the affected scalp and hair before going to bed at night. Place your head on a towel and sleep. In the morning, comb the hair thoroughly to remove dead nits and lice. Repeat this process for one week. Tea tree oil is considered as a natural louse repellent, and it also prevents hair lice infections. Tea tree oil has both the ovicidal and insecticidal effects that mean it kills lice as well as eggs (13).
4. Listerine for Lice
You need to douse your hair and scalp in Listerine and cover it with a shower cap. Always keep your eyes and face safe while undergoing this process. After two hours, wash off your hair with shampoo. Follow this with combing session to eliminate the left out nits. You must repeat this procedure for a week to witness good results. Listerine consists of thymol and eucalyptus that are proven lice killer.
5. Neem Oil
Add 2-3 drops of neem oil along with the regular shampoo and rinse your scalp and hair. After cleaning, comb the hair using a nit comb. Use it regularly to keep the lice out. Neem oil kills lice just like any other effective oil. It also blocks the air passages that are said to be the lifeline of nits and adult lice (14).
6. Baby Oil
The ingredients needed in this process are baby oil, shower cap, nit comb, laundry detergent, and water. Apply baby oil in a small amount to your scalp and hair. Gently massage for a few minutes and cover your head with a shower cap. Leave it for overnight and use a nit comb to remove the dead lice in the morning.
You can also use laundry detergent to rinse your hair. Repeat this process for a couple of days. Baby oil restricts the air passage, and the lice suffocate to death due to the scarcity of air. It also makes the hair slippery, thus making the eggs difficult to remain stuck to the hair shafts. Do not use detergent to rinse hair of toddlers; instead, you can use tea tree oil or neem oil for them (15).
7. Coconut Oil
Warm the coconut oil and apply it generously to your hair and scalp. Massage your head for a few minutes and cover it with a shower cap. Leave it covered for two hours and then comb with a nit comb to remove dead lice and eggs. Then, shampoo your hair. Once your hair is dry, apply the coconut oil again and leave it for overnight. Comb your hair in the morning again and remove the remaining dead lice and eggs. You must repeat this procedure twice a week. Just similar to olive oil or baby oil, coconut oil also blocks that air passage and suffocates the lice. Use the nit comb properly to make this remedy work (16).
8. Petroleum Jelly
Rub the petroleum jelly in generous amounts on the affected scalp and cover it with a shower cap. Apply some baby oil to make the hair freer. Run a nit comb across the hair to remove the jelly alongside the lice. Wash off your hair with shampoo to eradicate the jelly. You may continue this act until satisfactory results are achieved. Just like mayonnaise, petroleum jelly makes the lice life tough and make them suffocate to death. Compared to other remedies, this remedy has shown the maximum results in killing lice and eggs (17).
9. Alcohol for Lice
You are required to apply the alcohol solution to the affected scalp and hair. You must apply it across ears and neck area. Rinse your hair after 10 minutes and use a nit comb to remove dead nits and lice. Continue this process for two weeks to get rid of the remaining lice and eggs. Benzyl alcohol is one of the effective remedies to get rid of head lice. It is a type of pediculicide that is responsible for killing head lice. The chemical is even approved by the FDA and can be safely used for children aged above six months. Once you are done with the application, wash your hands properly (18).
10. Baking Soda
Baking soda helps in getting rid of itchiness on the scalp. It blocks the respiratory system of the lice when mixed with conditioner. The ingredients that you need with baking soda remedy are a part of baking soda, three parts of conditioner, a nit comb and a paper towel. Apply the mixture of baking soda and conditioner throughout the scalp and hair. Use your nit comb to comb thoroughly through the hair and wipe the hair with a paper towel. You will soon witness the removal of lice, baby lice, and eggs. Rinse your hair with shampoo after combing. For best results, repeat this process for a couple of days (19).
11. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oils work in a similar way like other oils. It kills the head lice by suffocating them to death. Apply the oil to your scalp and hair, and leave it overnight. Next morning, rinse it with shampoo. Repeat it for a couple of days until all the lice and eggs vanish.
12. Eucalyptus Oil for Lice
Eucalyptus oil is known for killing lice that are resistant to chemical treatments. The ingredients that you need for this process are 15 drops of eucalyptus oil, 2 ounces of olive oil, shower cap, and nit comb. Prepare the mixture of olive oil and eucalyptus oil, and put it on the scalp and hair. Cover it with a shower cap and leave overnight. Comb next morning using the nit comb to remove dead lice, and rinse the hair with shampoo (20).
13. Vinegar for Lice
Mix the vinegar with water and apply on the infested scalp. Wrap your head with a towel and leave it for 30 minutes. Now, comb your hair to remove nits and eggs. Rinse the hair completely after combing. You may use apple cider Vinegar instead of White Vinegar. The acetic acid content in apple cider Vinegar is high in comparison to white vinegar as it loosens up the bond between the lice and hair (21).
Salt is used as a natural antiseptic for treating head lice. The same proportion of salt is mixed with vinegar and put into a spray bottle. Spray the liquid over the scalp and hair. Now, cover the hair with a shower cap and leave it for two hours. Wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner. You can continue this method for two to three weeks for best results.
A strong fragrance of garlic is sufficient to suffocate lice and kill them. Make a garlic paste with ten garlic loaves and mix it with lime juice. Apply the mixture to your whole scalp. After leaving it for an hour, rinse your hair with hot water. You may also make a thick paste of garlic using cooking oil, green tea, or some conditioner. Repeat this procedure for two months to witness satisfactory results (22).
16. Hot Air
Lice combs can be ineffective if the lice are in large number as it is not possible to pick small lice out of the hair. But, hair blowers blowing hot air at 50 degree Celsius can kill the lice. Use the blower for 30 minutes and see the effect. It is an effective home remedy and can be used for a week. It is safe for children aged above six months. This method applies to adults of any age group. The best part of this remedy is that hot air treatment is not affected by humidity (23).
Popular yet Unsafe Remedies for Lice Removal
Not backed by Science, these studies claim that these remedies may not even work and cannot be harmful.
Do’s and Don’ts
The remedies mentioned above are natural ways to handle head lice without using harmful chemicals. We understand the fact that chemicals are capable of killing lice from the root but are way more lethal, and may also lead to several problems associated with the skin. Here are some do’s and don’ts that you need to take care while undergoing head lice treatment to avoid the chances of recurrence (24).
- Use a good nit comb that not wear quickly after frequent usage
- Tell someone about the infested individual; it can be a close friend who can help you out by spreading the word further
- Wash all the combs, carpets and beddings with hot water
- Use natural and safe head lice products
- You must call a professional head lice facility in case you need some necessary attention
- Tell children that they don’t need to panic, and this is not their fault.
- Avoid frequent hair to hair or body contacts with people
- Do not panic, the treatment may take some time but it all will be okay
- Don’t use chemical ingredients such as Permethrin as they hold severe side effects and are toxic
- Don’t wait long to treat the head lice. Start at the moment you are aware of the issue
- Most schools have a no-nit policy, so, make sure you start the treatment of your child before sending him/her to school.
Lice don’t happen quickly. There are several reasons for the birth of these insects in your scalp. The top victims of lice are school going children and people following an unhygienic lifestyle. Due to long hair, the lice get transferred very easily. Therefore many people tend to go for a haircut whenever they encounter hair lice problem. You should be very quick in dealing with head lice as the ignorance will lead to more number of lice, and you will end up scratching your head all day long.
First of all, you must not panic over the situation and start adapting several measures that we discussed above. Try to keep yourself and your surroundings clean as much as possible. No one should be embarrassed about being a victim, as it is one of the most common parasitic problems. There are numerous natural remedies these days that help in dealing with the parasites very effectively. If you take the right steps, then you can soon get rid of head lice. It may take one or two weeks to get completely free from the problem, but you will get out of it for sure.