When Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection offered to write a guest post about treating head lice naturally, I was thrilled! We get so many questions about the topic on our Facebook page, I knew it would be a welcomed piece by our fans!
Head lice can be a hassle and to some parents, it may be embarrassing or totally gross. When lice struck in our house last year (eek!) what worried me most wasn’t being embarrassed, but rather exposing my three young children to the neuro-toxins found in most of the commonly used treatments available at the pharmacy.
Permethrin is a pesticide and is the most widely used treatment for head lice. While permethrin is consider by regulating agencies to be an ‘OK’ risk, it is a highly toxic substance to both freshwater and estuarine aquatic organisms. What’s more, recent research and trials showed that it is not actually the most effective method for getting rid of lice.
An applied research study conducted in the UK (link to study here), released in 2010, compared the use of natural, oil based treatment to the permethrin based treatment and concluded that the natural alternative was more effective.
Concerned about the potential toxicity to my 19 month old, 3 year old and 5 year old, I spoke with my pediatrician. Since I was still nursing my little one, the doctor highly recommended that we avoid exposure to the Permethrin and so we agreed to try a very natural oil and vinegar based alternative that worked out very well for us. Here is what we did if you would like to give it a try:
- Olive or Coconut Oil: Oil drowns the lice, making them unable to crawl around to deposit eggs.
- White or Apple Cider Vinegar: The vinegar dissolves the ‘glue’ that the eggs use to attach to the hair.
- Fine tooth comb: To properly comb out the lice and the eggs.
- Shower caps: I found it easiest to have 2 for each head being treated / cloth is ok but might soak through.
- Masking tape or hair pins: to fasten the shower caps completely closed.
- Shampoo: A shampoo specifically made for prevention and treatment of lice is best. Most of them out there are toxic, but there is a great and effective one that’s not here: Lice Prevention Shampoo.
- Towels: We used these to protect the children’s clothing from stains.
The 5 Steps
Step 1: I applied olive oil generously onto the hair and scalp of each child. I placed a shower cap on each and used a bit of masking tape to keep them really closed tight. We set a timer for 45 minutes and spent the time reading books, coloring and doing puzzles.
Step 2: After 45 minutes, we combed out the hair and picked out any lice; we were very lucky, only two or three on each head (phew!)
Step 3: Rinse hair with warm water and a dash of dish soap.
Step 4: Repeat step 1 but instead of oil now use vinegar. Wait 45-60 minutes.
Step 5: Comb hair out very carefully to pick away any eggs then rinse again, this time we used a nice shampoo, to get rid of the vinegar smell. That’s it, the hair is done.
Follow Up & Prevention
I recommend checking hair daily for at least 7 days after treatment and possibly repeating the process if there are many cases of lice at school or in the community.
After this experience I also learned a few preventative measures that we take whenever we hear of any cases of lice at school or in our community:
-In winter leave coats and hats in the car overnight; the freezing temps kill any stray crawlers.
-Apply a lice prevention spray on the kids heads as they walk out the door. We love this one, as it is the most natural we have found. Unfortunately, Fairy LiceMother’s is not as natural as they suggest.
-Do a lice check every evening until break out seems to have passed.
Want to prevent lice? Check out this post: Preventing Lice so that You Don’t Have to Deal With Them
Peace & Be Well,
Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in Psychology and Family Counseling. Ariadne created the Positive Parenting Connection, a website dedicated to collecting and sharing resources, ideas, tips and helpful information with other parents that are striving to have connected, peaceful relationships with their children. Ariadne and her family currently live in Switzerland on top of a beautiful mountain with their spunky dog a blue fish. You can connect with Ariadne on Facebook.