One late fall day when I was in the third grade, I remember each of the kids in my class being called down to the nurse’s office. As I waited my turn, I wondered why many of those kids didn’t return back to class for the day. I soon learned the reason as the nurse put a comb through my hair and promptly called my mother to come pick me up.
The rest of that day, I sat with a mayonnaise concoction on my head, a cap over it, and then, many hours later, with my mother carefully combing through it to remove the lice bugs and their eggs.
Being that it wasn’t so pleasant, I am happy to report that the natural lice treatment plan below is quicker and doesn’t involve the smell of wet mayonnaise!
Thankfully, I haven’t had the pleasure of having to comb lice out of any of my children’s hair. At ages 9, 7 and 4, though kids in their classrooms have had lice, our preventative measures have worked like a charm!
So, when Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection offered to write a guest post about treating head lice naturally based on her experience, I was thrilled!
Head Lice is a Hassle!
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.
Why You Don’t Want to Use A Standard Chemical Based Treatment
Permethrin is a pesticide and is the most widely used treatment for head lice. While permethrin is considered 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 1,3 and 5 year-olds, 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. Here is what we used as our natural lice treatment plan. Thankfully, it worked quickly and the lice were gone for good. Since then, we use a natural lice prevention spray that has kept them away.
- Olive or Coconut Oil: Oil drowns the lice, making them unable to crawl around to deposit eggs.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: The vinegar dissolves the ‘glue’ that the eggs use to attach to the hair.
- 15 Drops of Tea Tree Oil: KILLS the lice and the eggs, as shown in this study.
- 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 Step Natural Lice Treatment Plan
Pour 15 drops of tea tree oil into 1/4 cup of olive oil and then apply the mixture generously to the hair and scalp. Place a shower cap over the had, useing a bit of masking tape to keep it really closed tight. Set a timer for an hour.
After an hour, comb out the hair using a very fine tooth comb and pick out any lice and eggs.
Rinse hair with warm water and a dash of dish soap.
Soak the hair with the apple cider vinegar, ring the hair out a bit and then place a shower cap over the head. Wait 45-60 minutes.
Comb hair out very carefully to pick away any eggs then rinse again, using 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 the 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
If you find this post useful please share it with others so that they can treat head lice naturally too. Thank you!
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About the Author
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. She 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’s family currently lives in Switzerland on top of a beautiful mountain with their spunky dog and blue fish. You can connect with Ariadne on Facebook.