Of course, when their children have head lice, the first thing many parents do is rush off to the store and buy some lice shampoo or lotion. But then they discover after the treatment that lice are still there. And they don’t really know what to do.
There are many solutions to get rid of lice (more info here: http://headlicecenter.com/ways-to-get-rid-of-lice/), but among all head lice treatments (more details here), only two have been shown to work 100%. The first one is combing out, and the second one is head shaving. For psychological reasons, of course, head shaving is not recommended and should be avoided.
Combing out is a method that is very time-consuming and not always adapted to our busy way of life. However, a good metal nit comb is rather cheap and 100% safe. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has very good guidelines on how to comb out lice on its page here: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/lice/headlice030.shtml. Combing is definitely a method that works, that has no side-effect, that is cheap, and that should not be overlooked.
If you want to use a product, things begin to be more complicated. First, there are OTC and prescription lotions and shampoos, which usually contain chemical products that act on the nervous systems of lice to kill them. The problem is that a misuse and overuse of these products have caused increased resistance of lice to them, and they are no longer as effective as they used to be. Moreover, they can have dangerous side-effects. Read Jesse’s story here to learn more.
To get rid of lice, you can also use home remedies, which are readily available. Most home remedies have not been proven to work scientifically, however many parents report success using them. They are harmless in most cases, which is a big advantage compared to chemical products. They work as physical pesticides, or suffocants. What they do is prevent lice from breathing, slowing them down, and killing them in many instances.
Here are the main home remedies you could use:
- Vinegar to unglue nits from the hair shaft: http://headlicecenter.com/head-lice-vinegar/
- Olive oil to suffocate and/or slow down adults: http://headlicecenter.com/head-lice-olive-oil-treatment/
- Petroleum Jelly to kill adults and some eggs: http://headlicecenter.com/vaseline-for-lice/
- Mayonnaise to suffocate and/or slow down adults: http://headlicecenter.com/head-lice-mayonnaise/
Among all home remedies that have been tested scientifically, olive oil has been shown to suffocate adult lice within 2 hours in a test by the Harvard School of Public Health. Then, a 2004 study comparing melted butter, vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, olive oil, mayonnaise and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) showed that although these remedies weren’t 100% effective at eliminating head lice, they did have some efficacy. Among them, petroleum jelly was the most effective, and was the one most likely to kill lice eggs.
Other studies have shown the efficacy of heat in getting rid of lice. In 2006, a study showed that a device called the louse buster with hand piece could eliminate up to 80% of baby lice and adult lice, and up to 98% of eggs. There are companies and health care centers that will use these devices, and the study recommended this method as an effective mean to get rid of head lice.
To sum up, the only 100% effective way to kill lice is combing them out manually. This requires a good comb, as well as patience and time. Shampoos, lotions and prescription treatments contain chemicals that can be harmful, and shouldn’t be used without caution. Home remedies have the advantage of being harmless for most of them (not all), cheap, and can be a good choice when you don’t want to take the time to comb out without using a product.
However, in any case, you should know that combing is and remains an essential step in your battle against lice, even if you are using a product. This combing step cannot be skipped. You need to get rid of all live lice and eggs if you want to be lice free.