Head Lice: How to Treat & Prevent Head Lice Naturally

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How to Treat Head Lice Naturally and Prevent Head Lice Naturally

What is head lice? 

Head lice are tiny little bugs that live on people’s heads. They are considered parasites, as they feed on human blood to live. 

What do head lice look like? 

An adult louse is about the size of a strawberry seed or sesame seed. They are grey in color.

The female louse produces a sticky substance and lays their eggs, called nits, on the hair near the scalp. The sticky substance keeps the nits on the hairs close to the scalp where the eggs incubate. 

Nits are tiny white specks about the size of dandruff. They can be mistaken for dandruff and vice versa.

How long do head lice live? 

A louse can live for three to four weeks on a human host. However, they can only live for up to 24 hours in carpet fibers. 

What causes head lice? 

There is not a specific cause of head lice. Risk factors for head lice include attending school from preschool through middle school. Families of children that age are at risk as well. 

Sign and Symptoms of Head Lice

Sometimes the signs and symptoms of head lice are not outwardly obvious. You may have to inspect for signs and symptoms to confirm that your child has head lice. 

An itchy head

Itching of the scalp, nape of the neck, and behind the ears is the most common sign of a head lice infestation. 

If you notice your child scratching their head you will need to inspect for nits and lice.

the presence of nits

Nits are lice eggs. They are typically white, tan, or brown in color and can be found on the hairs of the head.

Head lice typically lay their eggs close to the scalp, near the nape of the neck and behind the ears.

When lice lay their eggs, a sticky substance is secreted, which causes the nits to stick to the hair shaft.

Nits may be mistaken for dandruff. However, unlike dandruff, nits do not free easily from a strand of hair.

seeing head lice

Head lice are small and move quickly. Sometimes you may see a louse crawling on your child’s scalp.

If you see one louse you can assume that there are more.

You do not always see lice in cases of head lice. It is best to check for itching and nits.

Complications of Head Lice

It is rare to see complications from head lice. However, if your child scratches their scalp to the point that skin breaks there is a risk for an infection to develop. 

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Natural Head Lice Treatment

Once you confirm that a family member has head lice you need to begin treatment. Treatment is not the most simple process. It’s important that you are thorough or you may be dealing with head lice again. 

Why you should use natural head lice treatment

Pyrethrin, or its chemical counterpart pyrethroid, is the active ingredient in traditional lice shampoos. Research has found a link between pyrethrins and pyrethroids and cancer in humans. Additionally, there are now “superbug” head lice which have evolved and become resistant to pyrethrins and pyrethroids. 

How to treat the head lice naturally

There are a variety of natural head lice treatments that do work. By using a natural treatment you are able to avoid placing toxic chemicals on the scalp of your child.

Wet Combing to remove head lice

One way to remove head lice and nits is by wet combing. Wet combing is said to catch both live lice and nits. 

You will need a high-quality lice comb, like this, hair conditioner and baking soda. 

After thoroughly wetting the hair, you will apply a mixture of conditioner and baking soda to the head, from the scalp to the ends. 

After each pass of the comb, wipe the teeth of the comb off on a towel. 

You will need to repeat this process every other day for at least two weeks. 

Natural Over-the-counter head lice treatment

Natural, non-toxic, head lice treatment can be used. You will need to apply it to the head per package directions. 

The top two products available are this lice removal product and this lice elimination treatment

Follow-up per package directions which should include repeat combing, with a nit comb, for at least two to three weeks. 

Using essential oils to treat head lice

Essential oils have shown promise in effectively treating head lice. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not advocate using essential oils to treat head lice. 

Two of the safest essential oils, that have shown to be effective on head lice, include tea tree oil and lavender oil

These oils can either be applied mixed in a shampoo or in a carrier oil, like coconut or olive oil. 

Mixing essential oils in shampoo

To make your own essential oil shampoo you will need 2 drops per ten milliliters of shampoo. It is best to choose either tea tree oil or lavender oil.

Lather shampoo on the scalp and hair. Let sit on the hair for approximately 30 minutes and then rinse.

Follow up the shampooing with a thorough combing, using a special nit comb.

Repeat the process every seven days for three to four weeks.

If you prefer not to mix your own essential oil shampoo you can purchase an over-the-counter shampoo product, like this one

Using essential oils in a carrier oil

To treat head lice with a DIY essential oil recipe you will need tea tree and lavender oils, and carrier oil of your choice.

Carrier oils can be coconut or olive oil.

To mix essential oils with a carrier oil, you need to combine 2 drops of essential oil with ten milliliters of carrier oil.

Once combined, apply the oil from the scalp to the ends. Leave on your child’s head for approximately 30 minutes and then shampoo out.

Follow up with the oil treatment with a thorough combing using a special nit comb.

Treatment will need to be repeated every seven days for approximately three to four weeks.

How to remove nits

Once you have treated the head it’s important that you go through the time-consuming process of removing all of the nits. 

You will need to use a nit comb to comb through the hair and catch the nits. It may take many, many combings. 

You will need to repeat combing every two to three days for approximately three weeks. This will help to prevent a reinfestation. 

Using a head lice removal company

You can search for al local head lice removal company to take care of the head lice for you. 

Companies will either offer in-salon services, where you go to them for treatment. Or they will come to your home to provide treatment. 

How to treat the house and home for head lice

Head lice cannot live for very long if they are not on a human host.  However, you will need to wash all bedding and stuffed animals. It is also important to vacuum rugs. 

How to Prevent Head Lice Naturally

Contrary to some popular belief, a clean scalp will not keep head lice away. Head lice are not a hygiene issue. 

Educate your children

Head lice do not jump. They are transmitted by crawling from one head to another.

Using age-appropriate words, you can educate your children on the importance of not lying with their head touching a friends head. Children also should be taught to not place their head next to another friends head.

Children need to learn the importance of not sharing clothing or items they place on their heads, like hats, headphones, hair ties, and helmets.

Use hairstyles to prevent head lice

One way to decrease the chance of your child getting head lice is to have them wear their hair back. You can use braids or buns to help try to prevent head lice. 

Repellant sprays to prevent head lice

Repellant sprays, made with essential oils, provide an easy way to prevent head lice. 

You can spray your child’s hair each morning before they head out to school. 

I’ve linked my favorite lice repellant spray here.  

Treating and Preventing Head Lice

Unfortunately, if you have a school-aged child there is a chance that either your child or one of their friends, is going to get head lice this school year. 

However, if someone’s child gets head lice this year, you are now armed with all the information you need. You know how it’s transmitted, how to treat it, and what you can do to help prevent it. 

If you have a friend that’s either worried about her child getting head lice or frantically trying to treat head lice, please pass this along to her and help another mama out. 

There are many other natural treatments for head lice out there, such as using heat, vinegar, mayonnaise, or oils. I would love to hear if you have successfully, or unsuccessfully, used one of those treatments! 

If you haven’t already, check out my online baby care courses that I created just for you!

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

One Comment

  • Roberta

    Hello. I am interested in trying the conditioner with baking soda solution. But not sure how much baking soda I add to the conditioner. Thanks.

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