No need to go to the drugstore to get your head lice home remedies — there’s things you can do and items you can grab straight from your pantry that can help you stop lice in their tracks.
This post includes a lice checklist to make sure you get all the things you need to get done (there are many) so be sure to grab that as well!
A couple weeks ago I found the dreaded creatures in my daughter’s hair.
She had lice.
And I died inside.
However, I had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get it out.
I was lucky to have a friend who’d dealt with it a few times with her girls. She let me borrow her nit comb and recommended we smother them with a super thick conditioner and then pick them out.
At first, I was pretending inside that maybe it was just dandruff — until I did the comb through her hair.
And there they were — little bugs staring back at me.
And I died inside.
I wanted to hide, I wanted to hide it and I wanted to run away.
But, I couldn’t. I was the only adult home so I spent 2 hours combing through that hair. I researched on the internet about how to get rid of it. I asked a few smart friends what they had done and I found a way to stay alive by having a lot of actions to do.
The next day I finally realized I wanted to share this. To share that good parent’s kids get lice and that it isn’t a death sentence.
Here are a few things I learned about taking care of lice
I think she got it at the school carnival. They had a helmet that kids were using in a little bike race. As soon as she put it on I knew it was a licegiver. But, I shoved it in the back of my head. In reality — I think it would be smart for every mom to have one of these. They’re fairly inexpensive and I could’ve gone home and combed through it and not suffered them multiplying and replenishing her scalp.
You have to realize that it’s not unlikely that your child won’t get Lice. It happens super frequently, and the large majority of kids will get lice at some point during their life (especially girls)
How do you know it’s lice?
You’re not likely going to see the bugs on the scalp. They’re pretty quick and they try to blend in with the hair. A just-hatched nymph is the size of a pinhead — so they’re really small. Nits are about the size of a sesame seed and are laid close to your scalp (for warmth, and to allow them to feed right after they hatch).
With all your soul you’ll hope that it’s just dandruff. The big difference is that dandruff wipes right off. Lice won’t. Use your fingernail to poke at it — if it doesn’t move, it very well could be lice, especially if there are neighboring strands that also have similar issues.
Shampoo isn’t the best option
The medicated shampoos that are available both over the counter and with a prescription are basically SUPER harsh pesticides. If you wouldn’t let your child run around as your pest control guy is spraying your house — I wouldn’t put it on their heads.
When I worked for a pediatrician they told us to tell moms to use a bottle of mayonnaise (full fat). And that is still a great option as it smothers the lice (and totally conditions their hair).
However, in talking with my friend, she recommended that I just load her hair up with conditioner.
I had also read that vinegar will kill them. I loaded a spray bottle with a squirt of tea tree oil and sprayed her whole head with it and let it sit for 5 minutes. Give them a paper towel to make sure they don’t get any in their eyes.
After that we used super thick conditioner to make sure and to suffocate any remaining lice. I put a couple of handfuls of conditioner all through her hair making sure I got her scalp good and I left it on for about half an hour with saran wrap over it (so it didn’t glop off her head).
Tea Tree Oil
From what I read, some studies said tea tree oil killed the lice on contact, but other ones also said that the smell of tea tree oil repels them. HENCE, it’s a great one to add to your shampoo all the time to prevent outbreaks in the future (I added a dropper full to everyone’s bottles).
The Life Cycle of a Louse
Lice can live for 30 days on a human’s head. They live off blood from the scalp area. They have to feed several times a day. They can’t live without the blood feed more than 1 to 2 days.
They are killed with exposure of 5 minutes to more than 128 degrees. So, time in a hot wash or in the dryer will kill them.
Nits (lice eggs) are laid fairly close to the scalp as they need an immediate blood meal (eww) to survive! That means, if nits fall to the ground they will end up dying.
Nits take 7 days to hatch, and another 7 days to mature and be able to lay their own eggs. Female nits lay 3-5 eggs/day
Don’t forget the bedding
I don’t believe that you need to get ALL the linens out of your house, but I certainly washed all of her linens (including the comforter and shams) on the “sanitize” wash on my washing machine.
Some sites suggest you can just throw it in the dryer — but in the case of her bedding, towels and clothes I just coudn’t not wash it. It made me feel better (and frankly, needed to be done anyway).
Bag head items
I put all of her hair items (bows, etc) in a zip-lock bag in the garage. They say to leave it quarantined for 10 days.
I also quarantined any stuffed animals she’d played with in the past couple of days (again, the lice can’t live off a human for more than 1-2 days)
I boiled her comb to kill them on there.
We took the time to vacuum her floor, her mattress and the couch. You might also want to throw their backpack in the dryer if their hair is longer.
The key is the comb
In reality, the key to lice removal is combing, and combing and combing.
I killed the adult lice with the vinegar, conditioner and the tea tree oil.
Then I started combing out (you could wash out the conditioner and the majority of the dead bugs before combing). I left the conditioner in as it made it easier to comb.
You want to comb in several directions. AND with each swipe of the comb, you want to wipe off any lice/nits onto a white towel/paper towel so you’re not re-putting them somewhere else!
My daughter has fairly short hair and super fine hair. It still took me well over an hour and a half to comb through it. If your child has more hair/thicker hair you need to think you’ll be combing for 2 or more hours.
So, get comfortable. I’d recommend going to YouTube and watching some combing videos before you start. There is certainly a technique to it!
I’d also recommend this tool — it really did work great!
Vinegar also loosens the “glue”that hold the nits to the hair — that will help you in the combing process as well!
I am doing comb throughs twice a day at morning and bed time. Every few of days I’m going to do a milder version of the vinegar/conditioner routine I did on the first day.
So far I haven’t found a single other nit. I’m on day 3 of it as I write this, so I am hopeful that things are looking up.
Download my quick lice checklist to make sure you’re hitting all the areas!
I hope it never happens to you — but if it does, you’ll be prepared!
Be sure to check out my other family health posts: