How to Treat Lice Naturally
Lice might just be every parent’s worst nightmare. Once your kids are school-aged you will understand: it seems every year you hear about the presence of these little critters lurking in your school. Here’s how to treat lice at home using non-toxic alternatives.
A common misconception is that you need strong chemicals to treat lice effectively. The idea of pouring chemicals meant to kill living things on our child’s head can be even more horrifying than the actual lice so, lucky for us, natural treatments not only exist but they actually work better.
Below, we’ll cover:
- How to prevent lice naturally
- Home remedies and natural products for treatment
Frequently Asked Questions About Lice
Here are the answers to some common questions about lice:
How can you tell if you have lice?
Live lice tend to be located on the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft.
What does lice look like?
Full grown adult lice can be about the size of a sesame seed and tan to grey in color. They need to feed on human blood to live and can survive up to 30 days in a person’s hair.
Lice eggs are really small and hard to see – they can be mistaken for dandruff. You could have eggs (nits) in your hair and not know it since they don’t always cause itching.
How does lice spread?
They move by crawling (fast!) but they cannot hop or fly. This means that for them to spread there must be physical contact with infested hair, hats, pillows etc.
Lice prefer clean hair – so don’t feel embarrassed moms and dads, if your child gets lice it does not reflect on your family’s hygiene!
How to Prevent Lice Naturally
As a parent, your energy and focus would be well spent on helping your child avoid getting lice and bringing it home. Avoiding them naturally has been shown to be quite effective and then hopefully you can avoid the headache of having to treat the entire family for lice.
Cutting hair very short or pulling long hair back into a bun or braids helps avoid infestations. Additionally, using true organic and pure essential oils have been shown to help prevent lice.
(You should always first test your children to make sure there are no sensitivities to the essential oils you are about to use. You can do this by placing one drop of the oil on the bottom of your child’s feet and see if they have a reaction. If nothing happens continue with your treatment!)
The essential oils that have been found to work well alone or (for stronger effect) together to avoid lice are: Arborvitae, Lavender, Patchouli, Basil, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus and Thyme and Tea Tree oils.
How to use essential oils for lice prevention:
- For a strong defense (i.e. when you know there is a lice outbreak in your classroom or school) make a mix of 10 drops each in a bottle and shake. Oils should be UNDILUTED. Place 2 drops of your mixture on the top of the head every morning and night to help avoid infestation.
- Everyday spray: Pour 20 drops of tea tree oil to 8-10 ounces of water in a glass spray bottle and liberally spray on dry hair every morning before school.
Treating Lice at Home
Both prescription and over the counter products exist to treat lice in children. For the most part, they use pesticides to kill lice. While effective, it is unnecessary to pour chemical pesticides on your young child’s scalp. There are better and safer ways to go about it.
Additionally, super lice (yes, this is a thing and its spreading in many states) are actually resistant to some of the most common pesticides used in standard treatment products. So, not only are these chemicals bad for your kids (exposures to the most common pesticides in lice treatments have been linked to lowered IQ, diminished attention span, other neuro developmental issues and childhood cancers) but they are not effective at treating this new strain.
Luckily, there are some 100% natural head lice treatment options that are effective!
The comb through system:
The old fashioned, albeit time consuming, comb out process can be incredibly efficient at removing lice and nits without chemicals. Lice removal salons have opened across the country to make removal a bit easier on parents. They do the initial comb-through treatment for you (which can take up to 2 hours if you have long hair!) and a follow up visit, and parents just have to monitor and comb through at home to make sure nothing comes back.
I think it is money well spent – especially because they will teach parents how to do the comb through at home, correctly, and is especially helpful if parents get lice too (yes, this is very common – especially for moms with long hair!).
What you need to comb them out:
- Nit Free Terminator Lice Comb
- A bowl of water
- Lots of patience: this is going to take a long time as you need to comb through very small sections of hair to thoroughly remove any eggs that might remain
How to remove lice:
Please note, eliminating lice completely is not a one time deal. Maintenance is super important, at least for the first two weeks. Even after a thorough comb-through there could be a tiny amount of eggs still implanted, some so tiny you can’t see them. If these are not caught in subsequent comb-throughs during the maintenance phase, you could have a new cycle of lice!
I would recommend looking for a video online that showcases the ‘Shephard Method’ to removing them, but the basic process is:
- Wash hair with a natural lice shampoo and conditioner. Generally, they do not like tea tree oil, mint or eucalyptus so non-toxic conditioners with these essential oils should work.
- Leave some conditioner on the hair and comb through to eliminate any knots in the hair while in the shower. The Nit Free comb should glide smoothly through the hair. If the hair is very knotty, first use a normal comb and then move to the special lice comb.
- Have your child sit comfortably and start your comb through, combing through very small sections of the head and cleaning the comb in the bowl of water often so you can see if any eggs have been caught.
Once again, the key to this non-toxic process is patience and maintenance. I would run through this process at least once a day for a week.
Pure Dimethicone Gel/ LiceMD
100% dimethicone gel has been found to be a safe and effective natural lice killer for children. You will still need to conduct a thorough comb through after using this product: LiceMD Complete Kit with Comb and Gloves.
If your child comes home with lice, you will have to make sure that any area in your home where your child has been is lice-free too. This means washing all sheets, pillows, stuffed animals, car seats, rugs that they might come into contact with. A hot water wash should be enough. Alternatively, sealing away anything that cannot be washed for 2 weeks will ensure that any potential lice dies off on its own. Finally, make sure to check siblings and parents for possible infestations.
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