How to Get Rid of Lice

An episode of itchy and scratchy is not funny:  It is every child’s bane, and every parent’s nightmare.  As embarrassing as it appears, lice infestation is a phase that every child seems to go through, so might as well own up to it (because you have to inform the school) so every concerned party (including other parents) can do something about it.

Head lice are the most common lice found among schoolchildren.  The pubic lice come in a close second (which is understandably an infestation among adults), while the body lice come in a far third.  Since the last two kinds can very well be managed by grown-ups, it is the head lice that need aggressive intervention because they can be easily transferred from child to child.

Lice feed on blood they draw from the scalp, and they can survive up to 48 hours off the host.  A female louse lays about 3 to 5 eggs a day.  It takes 7 to 10 days for the eggs to hatch (nits), and another 7 to 10 days for the nits to mature and lay their own.

It is rare for pets to be infested with human lice, but since the latter can survive for two days off the scalp, it is possible to be re-infested through our pets.

Head lice do not pose any emergency hazard, but an itch can become irritated, and could become infected further down the road.  And that’s where all sorts of trouble arise.

Extermination therefore, is in order.  Some remedies you can find in your pantry; some over-the-counter:

  • Mayonnaise: A lot of parents swear by a jar of mayo.  Generously apply from root to tip, cover with a shower cap for two hours, and rinse!  Never leave on overnight as it may cause salmonella poisoning!  Repeat the process until your child’s menagerie is smothered to death;
  • Olive oil:  Ditto for olive oil.  Drench hair with it, hold shower cap tight with a rubber hand, and leave on for two hours.  Then wash hair as usual;
  • Castor oil:  Unlike the mayo and olive oil, castor oil can be left on overnight.  In the morning, shampoo hair before washing.  Repeat the process until all traces of the parasites are flushed away;
  • Petroleum jelly:  Smothers in the same way as the mayonnaise.  Can be left on overnight.  Wash hair as usual in the morning;
  • Pine oil:  Soak hair and body (in the case of body lice) for up to 15 minutes twice a day.  Wash and rinse hair, and apply baby oil.  Leave on overnight, and wash with de-greaser in the morning;
  • Vinegar:  If you find any of the above sticky, simply wash hair twice a day, and rinse with vinegar.  This makes it hard for the mother louse to stick her eggs in the hair strand.  Manually pick the eggs out, or strip them away with a masking tape;
  • Essential oils made of lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint and tea tree:  Combine 5 drops of each oil to an ounce of carrier oil (either castor, sunflower, grape-seed, olive, or saffron).  Mix 5 drops of that to a cup of water.  This can be sprayed on places that are hard to reach, or objects that can’t be washed.  Just be careful around peppermint and rosemary; they can cause difficulty of breathing among young children and elevated blood pressure among adults.  The mixture can also be potentially harmful to pregnant women.

Other non-edible approaches to waging full-scale war against these parasites are the following:

  • Use fine-tooth comb to brush loose nits and lice;
  • Use curling iron, blow dryer or hair straightening device to burn the parasites;
  • Wash the laundry in hot water for 20 minutes, and dry it on high for another 20 minutes.  This is to prevent re-infestation from shared objects;
  • Manually pick out stubborn nits and lice.  Check for any signs of re-infestation a few days after every application.