How to Get Rid of Head Lice

Head Lice Treatment

January 29, 2019
Lice Treatment


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Ever dealt with head lice? It’s not an unusual problem in schools. I remember when my daughter was sent home with lice, along with half her class. The nurse gave us a fact sheet of instructions for treating the problem.

As directed, our entire family scrubbed our heads with a product containing lindane, a pesticide closely related to DDT. I spent the better part of three days combing nits (louse eggs, which adhere tightly to the hair shaft) from my daughter’s long hair, because of the school’s “no-nit” policy before allowing a child to return to school.

It was mid-January, and because we didn’t have a clothes dryer to run everything through on the “hottest possible setting,” I bagged up my daughter’s stuffed animals, hats, bedding, towels, and pillows, tossed them into a snowbank, and left them out for several days, calculating that the  sub-zero nights would do in the adult lice, the nymphs, and the eggs.

It all worked out.

Basic Facts About Head Lice (Pediculus humanus capitis)

  • Lice are blood-sucking insects that inject saliva containing an anticoagulant to keep the blood from clotting while they feed. They complete their life cycle in about 30 days.The tan or gray adults grow to about ⅛ inch long,the size of a sesame seed.
  • They can’t jump, hop, fly, or even walk very well on a flat surface.
  • Lice spread from person to person by direct head-to-head contact. Because they play or sit close together, children are more likely to pick up lice. Rarely, adult lice may spread from an infected person’s comb, brush, hat, or pillow.
  • They don’t cause diseases.
  • It can take weeks for a louse infestation to show any symptoms; some people never do.
  • “Getting” lice has nothing to do with poor personal hygiene or household cleanliness. Lice affect all socioeconomic groups.
  • Dogs, cats, or other animals play no role in spreading head lice. Although some species of lice may infest companion or farm animals, these species don’t infect humans.
  • Head lice, body lice, and pubic lice are three different species; pubic lice generally attach to pubic hairs and spread through direct sexual contact.


Lice Treatment

Don’t treat for lice without a clear diagnosis from a knowledgeable health professional. An itchy scalp and presence of debris in the hair may have some other cause. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctors before using any pediculicide (louse-killing product).

Treat the person, not the surroundings. Spraying rugs, floors, walls, beds, furniture, and other household items won’t help control lice, and could cause harm.

Pediatricians no longer recommend lindane as a pediculicide. They also no longer recommend keeping healthy children out of school if they have lice or nits.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends using an over-the-counter, FDA-approved pediculicide as a first-line treatment. Follow package directions explicitly; follow up with your doctor if the treatment fails and you continue to find live lice.

Because the primary OTC/FDA-approved approved shampoos and lotions are insecticides (considered safe), lice in some areas may have developed resistance to one or another of them. Local doctors, nurses, and school officials should have this information.

Stubborn cases may require a prescription from a physician.

Ongoing research seeking natural, alternative products (see “Alternative Approaches”) that kill lice and their eggs have shown some promising early results, but public health experts warn that the products haven’t had adequate testing for both safety and effectiveness, so they should not be used to treat infants and children.

Folks who prefer not to use a standard pesticidal treatment can try the effective “wet-combing” (also called “manual removal”) method—running a fine-toothed comb through wet, well-conditioned hair.

A 2015 clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics had a section on manual removal that contains this nugget of wisdom, which gave me quite a chuckle. A novel definition of quality time with your young child.

There is an obvious benefit of the manual removal process that can allow a parent and child to have some close, extended time together while safely removing infestations and residual debris without using potentially toxic chemicals on the child or in the environment.

May you never have a louse-y day again!

Have dry, itchy scalp or skin? See our natural remedies for dry hair and skin.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.


Reader Comments

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I have tried all OTC products,olive oil,tea tree oil,mayonnaise,petroeum jelly,lemon juice,household lice spray,a 300 dollar prescription and have suffered for 12 months.I keep plastic wrap on my head constanty and no longer see friends or pursue normal activities. Im thinking of shaving my head. Im a 60 y.o. female who doesnt even feel like a woman anymore. Can anyone suggest anything to help me???

It is a great post

Head lice are tiny wingless insects that cannot jump or fly. They survive on the human head by sucking blood from the scalp. Lice are not dangerous, do not carry diseases and are not a sign of poor hygiene. During their life cycle, they also lay eggs in your hair. These eggs are called nits. Head lice are common in overcrowded places, especially in the schools.

mid 20th century solution

My mother, who taught 2nd grade from 1949 thru 1956 (quitting only to raise 4 children of her own) told me, once, that it was normal, back in her teaching days, to utilize actual DDT powder, to kill head lice.
Mind you, this was long before it was banned for use, in the USA.

Yes I have always used the

Yes I have always used the treatments when my kids had it always getting it at school I use to get so mad over that too people need to keep there kids at home when they have head love no go ahead and send them to school I had too clean everything pillows and blankets sheets clothes towels the entire home the best I had found when be the Nix it always worked. I know someone who used dog shampoo to get rid of it also RID that's no count.

Lice removal naturally

I raised 4 kids and my tried and true removal was salt, lots of it. Wet down the hair, get a box of salt and thoroughly out it through the hair. Put a shower cap on overnight and rinse thoroughly. Comb out nuts and dead bugs. Repeat daily for up to 5 days and then once a week for 3 weeks as a precaution. It worked every time for us.

head lice

I am retired from 15 years in the daycare industry. It saddens me to still see these poisons recommended to treat children. Nits breathe through their skin, all you need to do is smother them then comb them out. Coat the childs hair and scalp in baby oil or wesson oil, pretty much any liquid oil. Put a shower cap over it and send them to bed. The oil also makes it easy to comb the critters out in the morning. Please share this option with parents before they use insecticide on their child head


Pat has it right, all you need to do is smother them! Think petroleum jelly. It's horribly hard to wash out, but it will, in a few days. I had the lice problem with my daughter, when she was young. We tried all those expensive products at the stores. They didn't work (one of them was "RID").
Please don't go get a expensive prescription that might not even work! Just massage the pertroleum jelly through their hair good, making sure you get all of the scalp. They smother and die! Eggs too. I can't believe how many things we tried, with my girl, until an aunt told us, to use that jelly, and it worked like a charm! If you wash the child's hair, and it's still greasy, just put a scarf around her head, when she goes to school.

I know many people use

I know many people use smothering agents such as mayonnaise to treat for lice. I might have tried it myself if I’d heard about it wen my daughter was affected. I’ve since read about many DIY louse treatments, e.g., table salt, kerosene/gasoline (please don’t!), various essential oils.

But as a writer without medical credentials, I have to follow the best recommendations of  researchers and medical experts. Articles like this one Head lice therapies revisited convinced me not to include the smothering method in my brief post.

The cheapest and safest method that’s proven effective seems to be manual removal. I’d probably make that choice if I faced a louse outbreak again.

Lice removal

Mayonaisse works best, with Tea Tree essential oil added


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