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How to Get Rid of Head Lice

Updated on March 12, 2017
Keanmo40 profile image

Mum to six lovely young people. You can find me curled up on my sofa with a latte and a good book. A lover, not a fighter. INFP-T

Combing to detect Head lice and Nits

Combing hair
Combing hair | Source

Had Enough Of Head Lice?

Are you the parent of school-age children? If you answered "yes," then you've probably already had an encounter with the horrible creatures known as head lice! If you answered "no," then please read on and educate yourself in the best ways to remove and stay rid of these critters.

Each and every method I describe here has been tried and tested by me. Well, me and my gang of six children. I've lost count of how many times my lot has had lice over the years.

If it's been on the market, we've tried it—so you can rest assured I honestly do know what I'm talking about.

Without further ado, let's get on with the business in hand.

Enlarged image of Head Lice.

Head Lice on a white background.
Head Lice on a white background. | Source

Say Goodbye To Head Lice

Who Wouldn't Want To Say Goodbye To These?!

I'm going to be covering several aspects of having head lice, such as detection, symptoms, treatment and prevention. The first thing I’d like to state is that it is perfectly normal for your child to catch head lice from other children at school.If you suspect that this is the case you can try to have a look, but unless they have had them for a while you probably won’t see anything. This is why it’s best to use a nit comb to detect if your child has head lice. If they do, it is important to treat everyone in the family just in case anyone else has them. If they remain untreated, they will just infest the other family members again.

You will need to decide how you would like to treat the problem. There are various methods, ranging from natural to chemical, home-made to prescription only. I will cover some of the ones that I have tried. Personally I would go for the wet combing method with a decent nit comb such as The Nitty Gritty every time!

Once treated there are various ways to prevent your little ones being infested with head lice again, from sprays to basic common sense. For instance, I always made sure my daughter’s hair was plaited so that she had as little hair to hair contact with her friends whilst playing as was possible, because it is near impossible to stop children from playing closely together…nor would we want to of course! :)

Please take a look at my tried and tested methods and product reviews to help you if you find yourself trying to rid your little darlings of head lice (or yourself if you’re unlucky like me!)

Nit Detection Comb
Nit Detection Comb | Source

Detection: How To Tell If Your Child Has Head Lice

One of the most common signs that a child has head lice is the itching of the scalp. This doesn't usually happen until your child has had them for a good 3-4 weeks and by this point they will probably have a quite a few. If you miss the signs then that can lead to a bad infestation, but if you make it a habit to comb through to detect regularly this is highly unlikely to occur. You can take a look at your child's hair and scalp to see if there are any lice, eggs or nits (nits are the empty egg cases which are left behind after the louse has hatched) to be seen, but again it can be very hard to tell. Sometimes children with long hair will get red bite marks on the neck area if they have head lice. If a child were to have head lice for too long there is the risk that the scalp could become infected if they were constantly scratching their head. The best way to check for head lice is to use a Nit Detection Comb. These are usually made from white or cream coloured plastic. You need to comb through the hair and any lice, eggs or nits present are pulled out in the teeth of the comb. Because the comb is made from light coloured material, any debris in the teeth of the comb shows up easily.

Head to head contact spread Head Lice

Playing closely can spread Head Lice because of the head-to-head contact.
Playing closely can spread Head Lice because of the head-to-head contact. | Source

Causes: Why my child?

Children catch head lice more often than adults because they play closely together, and spread the lice through head-to-head contact. There is no reason your child has head lice other than they have had direct contact with another child or person with lice. Or maybe they picked them up by sharing a hat or hairbrush that another infested person had worn or used. That’s all there is to it, so like I said it truly is nothing to be ashamed of. Head lice, in fact, prefer to be on a clean head, so it’s not an indication of you doing anything wrong.

Lice CANNOT fly and they CANNOT jump! I say this because it is a popular misconception. Even my own mother-in-law used to think this to be true until I told her otherwise. Neither can they burrow into the skin.

From each egg, one nymph will hatch which then becomes a fully mature, egg laying adult in 5 days. The head lice feed on blood from the scalp up to eight times a day. They have very sharp mouth parts which easily pierce the skin on the head. Fortunately head lice don’t transmit disease as other lice that are found on the body do, so feeling very itchy on your head is the worst that is going to happen.

Nit Busting Tools - Tried and Tested

Please remember that even though I have personally tried the products that I link to there is absolutely NO necessity for you to buy these products. Even though most of them are reasonably priced, you may have other tried and tested products that you prefer. If you haven't then please try out my recommendations, you will not be sorry! Maybe you wouldn't mind sharing some of your tips and ideas in the guest book section at the bottom of this page. It's always nice when parents educate and support each other. I have learned much more from other parents than I ever did from doctors, nurses, health visitors and the like.

Wet combing to remove Head Lice

Wet combing with conditioner for diagnosis and treatment. Head lice can be seen in foam.
Wet combing with conditioner for diagnosis and treatment. Head lice can be seen in foam. | Source

Treatment: Ways to Get Rid of Head Lice

Okay, so you've used a detector comb or had a look behind the ears and the nape of the neck of your child. Unfortunately, they have head lice, so what should you do now? Well, first of all don’t panic, because although head lice are horrid they most certainly aren't dangerous to your child and best of all it isn't too hard to get rid of them.

There is a variety of ways to remove head lice, and I shall take you through them.

INSECTICIDES: Now I'm mentioning this because it is a valid treatment for head lice, but there are other effective methods available that work as well as and even better than insecticides. I personally have used this type of treatment in the past but now that I'm informed about them and well practised in alternative head lice removal methods I would not use insecticides again. They are not guaranteed to work anyway as the head lice can become resistant to the chemicals used in the treatments and like most parents I'm keen not to use unnecessary chemicals on my kids. Generally you need to apply the treatment to dry hair and leave it on the head for anything up to 12 hours, though there are some that are a shampoo treatment. When the time is up, you need to wash the treatment out and comb through with a nit comb to remove dead lice and hopefully eggs. The eggs are not affected by insecticides so you will need to wet comb anyway to remove remaining eggs and nits so it’s best to just use the wet combing method to start with.

DRY COMBING: This is exactly what it says on the tin. You need to comb through your child's dry hair with a nit comb. This is only suitable for detection of head lice though as not all lice will be removed this way as they grip onto the hair shaft tightly with their specially adapted legs. It is also impossible to remove all eggs and nits this way as the adult head lice ‘glue’ their eggs to the hair shaft right near to the roots. The lice lay their eggs here because the warmth from the scalp help them to grow and hatch.

SUFFOCATION: Actually this may not be the technical term, but it’s pretty much what it is. Basically, you smother your child’s hair in a substance that will suffocate the head lice, and then afterwards you can comb out the dead ones. Head lice breathe air so if you coat them in something greasy it covers their breathing hole thus killing them. Sounds a bit grim but it’s us or them! ;) What I found good with this approach was that if I used something really oily, such as olive oil (infused with a few drops of tea-tree oil for added oomph) it would help the eggs and nits to slide out easily when combing afterwards. The downside is that the hair is left super greasy, so shampooing twice is a necessity.

ELECTRONIC COMBS: These are usually battery operated though I'm pretty sure you can get rechargeable ones these days. They are just like a nit comb mounted on a plastic battery unit which you pass through your child’s hair like a regular nit comb. The difference here is that the comb will buzz when it comes into contact with a louse, egg or nit, whereby you will then remove the offending article. There is a downside to this method also, in that the comb tends to buzz when it has nothing in its teeth or if it has contact with anything else your child may have in their hair such as sand.

VACUUMING: I kid you not, your child can have their head lice hoovered out of their hair! Not with your regular vacuum, don’t worry. Well, actually there is a special unit that you can attach to your own vacuum if that is the route you wish to take. There are also places you can take your child to have their head lice professionally removed with vacuuming and tweezers. This is rather pricey but if you have been putting up with head lice for some time because you can’t get on top of them (this can happen easily in large families) then this could be what you are looking for. The unit that you can buy is called a Lice Snatcher and it is basically a hoover attachment that enables you to use your vacuum to remove your children's head lice. It sounds pretty neat to be honest and I've included a link to the website that sells them at the bottom of this Hub incase anyone wanted to check it out. (I would like to point out that I am NOT an affiliate or owner of this company)

WET COMBING: Last but not least is my absolute favourite method, not that removing head lice is ever a fun pastime. ;) This gets the thumbs up from me because if you use this method every 3/4 days for two weeks you are more or less guaranteed to be rid of the problem. It is effective for removing head lice, eggs and nits because the hair is so slippery from the conditioner you put in it. You need to wash your child's hair then after rinsing out the shampoo put in lots of conditioner and comb through with a regular comb. This is to spread out the conditioner from the roots to ends and to remove tangles before nit combing.

Once you have liberally coated their hair with the conditioner, you can start removing the head lice with a metal toothed nit comb. It is best to hold the comb at a 45° angle to the head and pull downwards slowly and steadily, making sure that you start at the roots every time. If your child has long hair, I will suggest that you section it, so that you can be sure you have gone through it all thoroughly. You should continue to do this until no more lice or eggs are coming from their hair. You should repeat this every three days for about 12/14 days to be on the safe side. It is essential to stick to the three daily routine so that you catch any head lice you may have missed before they are mature enough to start laying eggs. This is also why you should check the whole families hair at the same time. If you don’t check and treat everyone accordingly, you may find that family members keep re-infesting each other. This won’t be fun! I have placed an infogram of the head louse life cycle a little further down the page for you to see.

Life Cycle of the Head Louse

Braid hair to prevent Head Lice

I always French braided or plaited my daughters' long hair.
I always French braided or plaited my daughters' long hair. | Source

Prevention: It's Better Than a Cure

I always plaited my daughters' long hair. That goes without saying really, but I've gone and said it anyway. Now that you've learnt about head lice, their life cycle and how they are passed on from person to person, you can go about preventing them.

The most important thing that has helped me is to make sure my daughters long hair was plaited back out of the way for school. This benefited them anyway as their hair was never in the way while they were learning. As for my boys I did go through a bit of a crew cut ‘phase’ after they had head lice one time, but they weren't too keen! So I had to make sure I went through their hair with a detector comb once or twice a week, especially on my son who decided to grow his hair long.

It is also important to change your child’s pillow cases for fresh ones. Washing the pillow cases on a normal wash is all you need do, after all you are washing them just in case there happens to be a louse or egg on the case, which is not very likely in my experience.

Also make sure you wash any hats they may have worn while infested. It is also a very good preventative measure to not let your children swap hats if you suspect them or their playmates have head lice. Hairbrushes should also be washed just in case there are any lurkers. I always put mine through the dishwasher on a regular cycle, but that’s probably just me! It would probably be sufficient to wash them in warm water with some shampoo. Make sure you rinse the shampoo out properly. Oh and another thing, please don’t use hot water from the kettle to sterilize your brushes with as I've tried this myself, and it didn't turn out great for my brushes. The bristles totally melted, and the brushes were unusable. Ah well, you live and learn as a wise man once said. :)

If you want a little extra help on the prevention front there are a multitude of different sprays and lotions, you can apply to the hair. I've used them, and they undoubtedly do help but like everything if you have to purchase it all the time it can become rather expensive. What myself and many mums that I know tend to do are just use the repellent sprays when the school sends home a letter warning that there has been another case of head lice in the school. Out come the pleasant smelling sprays when this happens. I've found that a lot of the sprays smell of almond which is a million times nicer than my home made repellent. In fact the kids won’t wear mine anymore, not since the first time when they got teased at school about the smell, so that was that. I'd added a few drops of my trusty tea tree oil into a plastic spray bottle with some water and misted that over my children’s hair in the hope that it would repel any wandering head lice, but, unfortunately, all it did was repel my children’s classmates. I'm afraid from now on, it's shop bought for us.

Instructional How To Videos - Detection, Removal & Prevention of Head Lice

*WARNING* Some of these videos do film in close up so be prepared as the little critters are pretty grim looking. Of course if you follow all the steps I've told you, then they won't be hanging around for long!

Step-by-step how to effectively use a nit comb to remove head lice. Look she's using a Nitty Gritty!

How to remove head lice eggs. We all want to know how to remove these stubborn devils!

Epidemics of head lice often occur at the start of a new school term. Follow these great preventative tips that are shared here.

Tea Tree Oil

Radha Beauty Tea Tree Essential Oil 4 oz - 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade
Radha Beauty Tea Tree Essential Oil 4 oz - 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade

Premium Therapeutic Grade Tea Tree Oil - Remember that Tea Tree oil can be used for so many things so it's a super handy essential oil to have in your cupboard.

 

I Almost Forgot About Wonderful Tea Tree Oil

I forgot to tell you about Tea Tree earlier. I'm sure many of you already know how beneficial Tea Tree is in all manner of treatments for all manner of ailments. Helping eliminate head lice is just one of many uses but it is the one I'm going to tell you about.

I know for a fact that by putting it in my olive oil before using it on my children's heads it 100% helps kill all the lice, and I'm sure it helps to loosen the 'glue' the lice use to stick their eggs on. There is almost never any remaining lice left after treatment in my experience. That is why it is crucial to comb out all the eggs after treating, so that another generation doesn't hatch.

Always remember with essential oils that a little goes a long way so use sparingly and keep them out of the way of children and animals.

Thank you for reading my article... hope it helped!
Thank you for reading my article... hope it helped! | Source

Goodbye & Thank You

Thank you for reading my article. I hope that I've helped you rid your little darlings of head lice, as it is no joke when you've got them itching their hair at the supermarket check-out on the way home from school. Plus of course neither are the tedious hours spent trying to rid them of the wee offending beasties. That is why I wanted to take you through the steps that work best for me and my brood of six. I think that I've had plenty of first hand experience to be near expert level when it comes to eradicating head lice.

Maybe you know of some tips and tricks I've missed? If you do, please feel free to leave me a comment below or indeed if you have any questions I would love to hear from you. In fact, hey, I don’t mind what you want to say just go ahead and leave me a comment and I will get back to you.

All the best to you all ~ Kelly :)

Have You Or Haven't You?

Have your family ever had the dreaded Head Lice?

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© 2014 Kelly

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    • Keanmo40 profile image
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      Kelly 6 months ago from UK

      Hi Arlene, I'm terribly sorry about the late reply. I can certainly offer suggestions as to where your child may have caught head lice. I'm going to be presumptuous and assume she's either at kindergarten or school? If this is the case, then that is probably going to be the main cause of your child having head lice. Children catch head lice at nursery and school the whole world over, every day. The head lice also seem to have become immune to most of the chemical lotions and mousses you can treat your child's hair with. Not that using chemicals is recommended on kids of course! Children catch them so easily because they have more head-to-head contact whilst playing than adults do. Also if your child attends an after school activity such as Judo, athletics, dancing etc., where they get together with other kids, that may be another place they could have picked head lice up from. Lastly, maybe another child in the family such as a cousin or family friend may have passed head lice on to your child. They are very common and nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, most families with children will have had the dreaded head lice problem at least once....you are not alone Arlene! : )

      In response to your second question, I'm not totally sure how they stick to hats but I'd guess the head lice probably grip on to wool and such like, much the same way that they grip on to strands of hair. The lice have six legs which cling on tightly to strands of hair. I did also read that if there are the odd random lice in hats or on pillow cases they are probably injured or dying anyway, so just pick them up and dispose of any you may find. The absolute best way to be rid of head lice is to smother your child's head with some oil with tea tree oil added to it. Olive, almond or coconut oil are all good, although you will have to make sure the oil is warmed up first if you use coconut oil. The oil suffocates the lice. They also don't like tea tree oil. Then wrap your child's head with some plastic wrap and a towel to protect the pillow case and clothing. In the morning you will be able to comb the lice and nits *(eggs) out easily with a nit comb. I recommend the Nitty Gritty comb, it really is the best one I've ever used because of the spirals that are etched in to each tooth of the comb. If there is anything else that I can help you with Arlene please let me know and I'll try not to take so long next time!

    • profile image

      Arlene.B 13 months ago

      Hello I recently read your article on How to remove head lice and I had a couple of questions, because my daughter recently got head lice. First, where does my child normally get head lice? Second, how do you think head lice "stick" to hats and whatnot?

      Please Respond As Soon As Possible,

      Arlene.B

    • Keanmo40 profile image
      Author

      Kelly 2 years ago from UK

      @takkhisa: Hi Takkhis, that's nice of you to say, Thank you so much. I'm very happy that you enjoyed my lens! :)

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 2 years ago

      This is the first time I have read a lens about head lice! Great one, no doubt about that! Thank you :)

    • Keanmo40 profile image
      Author

      Kelly 2 years ago from UK

      @Arachnea: You are most fortunate there then Arachnia, I can assure you it's no fun. It often seems like Groundhog Day once the children are back to school with regards to being rid of the horrid things. Thanks so much for your input. :)

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 2 years ago from Texas USA

      I've not had to deal with head lice, evah, thankfully. However, I've known parents for whom this has been a constant battle due to infection and reinfection at school. I don't envy them.

    • Keanmo40 profile image
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      Kelly 3 years ago from UK

      @Doc_Holliday: They sure can Doc, that's why it's always good to follow preventative measures as much as one can and to nip the infestation in the bud as quickly as possible. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my lens. :)

    • profile image

      Doc_Holliday 3 years ago

      From what I hear these can be a real pain to get rid of when kids are regularly infected at school.

    • Keanmo40 profile image
      Author

      Kelly 3 years ago from UK

      @MarcellaCarlton: Thanks for this tip Marcella, I will definitely try this next time one of my darlings brings home unpaying lodgers. Because no doubt there will be a next time. *rolls eyes*

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      Loved your lens! Great Advice. The suffocation problem you had with getting all the grease out could be remedied by using dawn dish washing liquid. I found this one out when one time my son decided to rub Vaseline all over his head. Too bad he didn't have head lice then. They are such cards!

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