Back-to-school can be a really exciting time. The promise of new teachers, new friends, and new experiences coupled with new clothes and new school supplies is enough to get any child pumped, and the return to a consistent schedule can do wonders for a mom’s psyche. But back-to-school can have its drawbacks as well, and if you found this post after searching for ‘natural remedies for head lice’, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
When I originally sat down to write this post, my goal was to share as many natural remedies for head lice as I could possibly find. I had visions of creating a detailed list with over 25 different home nit treatment options using nothing but ingredients you already have stashed away in your kitchen pantry, and dreamed it would become the Head Lice Bible for moms everywhere.
I’d share the best ways to get rid of head lice using things like coca-cola, Listerine, vinegar, and salt, and the powers that be would be so impressed with my wisdom and resourcefulness that my guide would be included in back-to-school kits across the globe.
I was going to become internet famous.
As it turns out, there are a ton of natural remedies for head lice out there, but a lot of them are weird, messy, and ineffective, and after 2 hours of research and a lot of head scratching (am I the only one who gets itchy the moment I hear the words ‘head lice’?), I came to the realization that even though there are a ton of head lice removal products available, most research supports the effectiveness of one remedy, and one remedy only: olive oil.
I’ll share the secrets behind this method in a bit, but first I feel compelled to dig a little deeper into the wonderful world of head lice and share some of the myths I managed to debunk while writing this post.
HOW DO YOU GET LICE?
Contrary to popular belief, lice does not jump from head to head. It’s spread by close head-to-head contact and by sharing things like hair brushes, hats, and clothing. It isn’t spread from animals to humans, and while children tend to ‘catch’ lice at daycare or school, it can also be transmitted during birthday parties and sleepovers. And with the number of selfies kids are taking with their smartphones these days, head lice is occurring more frequently than most of us are comfortable with!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR LICE TO SHOW UP?
This really depends. Everyone reacts differently to head lice, and while some start scratching very soon after they are exposed, others aren’t bothered until a true infestation is underway. My suggestion? Make head lice checks a regular part of your after school routine. Get familiar with what lice on the head looks like (see YouTube clip below) and make it a point to check your child’s scalp every single day so you can nip nit problems in the bud!
SIGNS OF HEAD LICE
The best way to determine if your child has head lice is to perform regular checks. Not everyone experiences the familiar feelings of itchiness straight away, so this will always be your best line of defense, but also look out for a ticklish feeling and/or small red bumps on the scalp and/or neck. Sleeplessness may also occur due to excessive itching at night, so if your little one is waking up frequently and seems more irritable than normal, give her scalp a quick check!
HOW CAN YOU GET RID OF HEAD LICE?
The internet is filled with tons of natural remedies for head lice that promise to stop a lice infestation in its tracks, but the reality is that a lot of them don’t work as effectively as some might want you to believe. And while there are also a lot of OTC lice products available, research consistently shows that olive oil is just as effective, and since it’s free of harsh and potentially irritating or dangerous chemicals, it’s the preferred choice for moms everywhere.
The idea behind using olive oil to treat head lice is quite simple. You want to completely coat the lice with oil for an extended period of time so you suffocate the lice and nits. Some say this can be done in as few as 2 hours, but most suggest 8 hours or more for maximum results.
Here’s the exact 3-step process for treating head lice with olive oil:
- STEP 1: Completely coat your child’s hair in olive oil, cover with a shower cap, and let it sit for 8+ hours.
- STEP 2: Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, wash your child’s hair with a mixture of dish soap and shampoo to remove all of the oil, and then brush through her hair with a lice comb to remove all of the lice (see instructions below).
- STEP 3: Repeat. You will probably have to repeat this treatment several times depending on the severity of the infestation. Some suggest having your child sleep with oil-soaked hair every night for a week to ensure all the lice are completely removed.
HOW TO USE A LICE COMB?
Lice combs are one of the cheapest head lice removal products you can invest in, and when combined with olive oil treatment, they’re also one of the most effective. But figuring out how to use a lice comb isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s an actual science to the process, which goes a little something like this:
- Once your chid’s hair has undergone an 8+ hour soak in olive oil, give it a good wash so it’s easier to handle, and then put an apron or towel over her shoulders to prevent the lice from falling onto her clothes.
- Next, divide her hair into little sections and comb each section up, down, left, and right for maximum results.
- Be sure to comb all the way to the ends of your child’s hair, and wipe the comb clean after each section using a clean piece of paper towel you can immediately dispose of.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING LICE
While head lice might feel like an inevitable part of elementary school, there are some things you can do to avoid getting lice:
- Make hair checks a regular part of your after school routine so you can act fast and avoid a serious infectation.
- Encourage your children to wear their hair tied back in hairstyles like French braids and buns.
- Do not allow your child to share hairbrushes, hats, and clothing with their friends.
- Keep hairbrushes in a Ziplock bag and never share!
- Use tea-tree oil infused head lice guards like Lice Shield to prevent infestations. Just remember that not everyone can tolerate tea tree oil, and it is toxic if ingested, so use these remedies with caution.
Remember that lice spreads from direct contact and isn’t an indication of cleanliness – kids with dirty hair are just as likely to get head lice as those with squeaky clean hair! – and since lice can only live for 24-48 hours without a host (read: your child’s scalp), it isn’t necessary to set fire to the entire contents of your home if you want to get rid of lice once and for all. Focus only on the things your child’s head has come into close contact with, like bedding, hats, and clothing. Wash those items in hot water and dry on the highest heat setting of your dryer.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and lice-free school year!
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