I got that dreaded note home from school. “There has been a confirmed case of lice in your child’s school.”  Lice! Eeek! I’ve not had any personal experiences with it yet and hope I never do but I wanted to look into it so that if it does happen, I’d have a plan of attack and not be stuck at the drugstore buying a toxic chemical potion.  Which is what happened to my dear friend Sommer when she was on vacation!  Her story is not an unfamiliar one and reading her personal experience with it, I just shook my head in agreement because I probably would have done the same thing given the circumstances.  The note goes on to outline all the toxic pesticides you can marinate your child’s head in and I would rather avoid it at all costs.

Unfortunately, when you do go to a drugstore the options available to us are sometimes not so vast. A quick glance at the selection of cures in the grocery store left 2 options, one a common brand called Nix.  Sommer did a great job at highlighting some of the natural brands and services available to treat lice such as Lice Happens, which is a service you can contact that will help you deal with and rid your life of a lice infestation.  They carry their own natural products as well.

But I wanted to also provide some tips I found comforting and a few other ideas that I thought might be comforting to someone dealing with an infestation or like me, it has occurred to a child in your school and you want to be prepared.  So here we go.

Prevention

Preventing lice is not really a 100% fool proof practice.  It happens and it’s not life threatening (there are worse things!) but very inconvenient.  I don’t know one person who wouldn’t take a few precautions if it’s possible to skirt a lice infestation. There are a few products that swear they are effective in deterring lice.  One is a product line I am familiar with and love and that is Babo Botanicals Lice Repel Shampoo and Conditioning Spray. Babo Botanicals had their product tested and it was deemed 95% effective in repelling lice.

Happy Heads  has an array of Lice Prevention products and systems including their Scootie-Cootie Organic Repelling Shampoo and Leave-in Conditioner & Detangler. They’re infused with 100% pure essential oils and are sulfate & paraben free. Safe for use daily!

Lice Happens also has a Lice Repellent Spray which is free from pesticides. It’s safe to use daily and their special mint formula  repels head lice. You can use it daily on kids who may be exposed to head lice at school, camp, playgrounds, sleepovers, or wherever kids play together. Those play places that have dress up always give me the heebs.

Washington Toxics Coalition offers some great advice that doesn’t require chemical intervention. Here are some highlights:

  • Encourage your child not to share headphones, headrests, hats, hair ribbons, barrettes, scarves, bicycle helmets, brushes or combs.
  • Talk with your child’s teachers about storing coats in cubbies rather than hanging them on hooks where they can come in close contact with each other.

Preparation & Treatments

Having a few tools and products on hand in the event of lice can be a saving grace.  You can’t control every situation… you may be on vacation and without a choice, or visiting relatives and don’t have your supplies.  But if it strikes while you’re home you at least have the tools necessary to start treating the problem right away and naturally without having to resort to the selection at CVS.  That works too but if you’d rather not use a chemical pesticide on your kids head, then here’s a few things you may want to have available:

Lice/Nit Comb.  Apparently many kits come with one but the “good” ones are ideal because they are made with stainless steel and are more effective in removing lice and nits.  One of the most popular ones is called Nit Free Terminator, which you can also find at Babo Botanicals for $12. It seems steep for a lice comb but I’ve heard from other mothers who have dealt with lice that having a good comb makes a huge difference in removing and ending the nightmare. I’d say having on in your house for a just in case situation is warranted. Another one which is considered the “Gold Standard”  by HeadLice.org is the LiceMeister.  I’ve also seen the Robi Comb (thank you Green and Clean Mom for pointing that one out) an that looks like a good thing to have around. Though some have suggested that it’s not effective in finding and removing the eggs.

Topical Lice Treatments. Here’s where it gets tricky.  Since any immediate solution is going to fall in the drugstore category, you’re left with few non-toxic options.  Most non-toxic solutions need to be ordered online and waiting for a delivery while lice is running rampant in your home sounds horrific.  So having something around “just in case” can save you. Here is a list of brands that are free of toxic pesticides and use natural ingredients to treat and remove lice:

I don’t recommend trying other suggested natural remedies that I’ve seen circulating in the past, and advise that a pesticide free product specifically made to remove and kill lice and nits is the best way to go.  According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Studies have shown lice can survive in hair covered with olive oil, mayonnaise and even petroleum jelly–even when it is left on the hair overnight.” So this isn’t always a good option.

This mom recounts a friends experience making her own lice removal product using olive oil and essential oils.  But the bottom line is, you need a good comb.  Read about it on Clean Green Start!

Tips For Removing Lice From Your Home

Removing the nits from your child’s heads is the key and not treating your home.  Though follow up cleaning is advisable.  Using pesticides to spray your home is not recommended and unnecessary.

  • Diligent and daily combing to remove lice and nits is key.  This should be done twice daily for at least 12 days or more.
  • Wash clothing, towels and bedding in hot water and tumble-dry on high heat for 30 minutes.
  • Soak brushes and combs in hot water above 130° F for 30 minutes or or soak combs and brushes in rubbing alcohol for an hour.
  • Vacuum floors, furniture and bedding your child may have had contact with. After vacuuming, remove the bag, seal the openings and dispose of it properly.
  • Bag up items that can’t be laundered (like stuffed toys) for 2 weeks.

Resources

Posted by: SafeMama Kathy on April 12, 2011

Comments

7 Responses to “Treating & Preventing Head Lice Naturally”

  1. S on April 12th, 2011 4:08 pm

    we use a drop or two of lavender or geranium essential oil in a spray bottle of water (what we use to tame bed head in the am) spritz hair daily. They apparently hate the stuff. Also remember they like clean heads and clean scalps, so this is not a cleanliness issue, just one of bad luck. so be supportive of your friends/neighbors who have had the bad luck. Also take the time to learn what they look like b/c they are much harder to see than you think. Have a school nurse or a friend who has been through it show you/explain to you, especially if your child has a lot of hair. Good luck!

  2. SafeMama Kathy on April 12th, 2011 4:54 pm

    @S – Yes thank you for sharing that. You make a great point. I’ll include a DIY solution to the article. Thanks for sharing that. I don’t see lice as an embarrassing problem, just an inconvenient stroke of bad luck.

  3. Brooke on April 12th, 2011 5:40 pm

    tea tree oil kills lice straight away. We had a lice scare, or actually a louse scare. My daughter picked up one at the doctors office. I found it when I went to put drops in her ear for a raging ear infection. I pulled the louse out of her hair and put it in a baggie. One drop of tea tree oil and it shriveled up. I did a 20 drops of tea tree oil mixed in 1 oz of sweet almond oil, and coated her hair, braided it and sent her to bed because it was late. Next morning we washed out the oils. and then washed with 1 oz castile soap and 20 drops of tea tree oil 3 separate times, wash and rinse, wash and let set for 30 minutes, then comb, then rinse, then wash and rinse. I dried her hair then when on a nit hunt. We only had one louse, so I don’t know how this would work with a full blown case. 7 days later I did another castile soap, tea tree oil wash sequence, and we had no bugs. I was so thankful I found the one on her head, but had I not we would have had a full blown case the next week. I was also proud of myself for not panicking. If we were to have full blown case tho, I would certainly use this as my first plan of attack.

  4. Jessica P. on April 13th, 2011 12:48 pm

    What about Fairy Tales shampoo/Cond/leave-in conditioner spray….Rosemary Repel? Back in Sept, the very first week of school I received that same “letter” from my daughters pre-school. She has long thick curly red hair and cries everyday when it’s time to brush it. I was so nervous to have to deal with having to comb her hair that I went on a search…calling Whole Foods and my local natural items store. I couldn’t find any prevention until I found Fairy Tales…I claims to be natural & organic…I used it everyday throughout the fall and no lice, I was thinking about using it again with the warm weather. I HOPE it’s safe for her!!

  5. SafeMama Kathy on April 13th, 2011 1:17 pm

    @Jessica: I have an email in to them asking about phthalates. I’ll add it to the mix when they get back to me. Thanks! (I fixed the spelling, no worries haha)

  6. Alyson on April 13th, 2011 3:02 pm

    Once a week we add a few drops of tea tree oil to our shampoo to help prevent lice. So far, so good!

  7. MegsMum on April 16th, 2011 10:17 am

    we just went through this – ack! I only found a very small amount of nits on my daughter (never a louse) but treated naturally and safely. I started with ShiKai tea tree and peppermint oil shampoo was wonderful to help tame the outbreak and I used the same tea tree conditioner (applied generously) with the comb you note in your article to comb my daughter’s curly hair. I also used straight tea tree oil to help as an after treatment (just a couple drops on the nit-comb as I went through her hair daily for a week) as well as using an organic lavender leave-in conditioning spray to help tame tangles in the morning (product by Jason Organics).
    We did do a four hour natural treatment with a product called “Quit Nit” by Wild Child Products (http://www.quitnits.us/) which was perfect for the initial treatment.
    What I thought would be this horrific experience was really not terrible at all. We already clean the house with homemade cleaners so I added some tea tree oil to the mixtures for surface cleaning, used both tea tree oil and peppermint in the wash and added some extra lavender to the tub at night as well as continuing with the tea tree oil shampoo :)

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