With the start of each school year, the joy of shipping the kids to school daily can easily be destroyed when they come back with an infection, illness, or bug infestation! Hair lice is a common problem in school children, spread through the sharing of personal items such as hats, combs, towels, and brushes. The best way to keep your child(ren) safe is to teach them to avoid sharing personal belongings (all sharing is not good) that directly touch the head.
The mention of hair lice gets the scalp itching and causes panic in even the most reasonable people. Last year. headlines are scaring parents with talk of “mutant lice,” which are resistant to conventional hair lice shampoos and known treatments.
The reality is that doctors and health experts have known for years (since the ’90s) that hair lice have become resistant to the (dangerous) in many over-the-counter lice shampoos. That’s why experts say that hair lice shampoos have a 30-40 percent failure rate (they only kill 60-70 percent of the lice and nits). And keep in mind that this new study was quietly funded by pharmaceutical companies that make expensive, prescription-only lice treatments.
In addition to their high failure rate, almost all chemical lice shampoos and treatments contain neurotoxins, which kill the lice by attacking their nervous systems. Pyrethrin and permethrin are the most common neurotoxins, and they are common pesticides.
Taking Care Of Hair Lice On your Own
For a healthier, safer, cheaper, and more effective alternative, follow these science-backed steps to get rid of lice without exposing your children or yourself to toxic chemicals and pesticides.
Step 1: Oil And Comb Out Hair Lice With A Comb
Combing out the actual lice and nits (lice eggs that are glued to separate hairs) is important, especially if your child’s school, class, or group of friends is struggling with lice problems. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that combing thoroughly with a lice comb was four times more effective than treating with over-the-counter lice shampoos.
How To Do It:
1. Combine 1/4-1/2 cup of coconut oil (depending on how much hair you need to cover) with 10-20 drops of tea tree oil.
2. Coat the entire head of hair with the oils, combing through with a regular brush. Make sure to get underneath, close to the scalp.
3. Cover head with a plastic shower cap or plastic wrap.
4. Wait at least two hours. The oil will slow down and weaken live lice and make the nits easier to remove.
5. Starting from the front of the head, comb small sections of hair with the lice comb. Rinse out comb after each comb through. If there is a lice infestation, you will catch both lice and nits in the comb.
Do this weekly if there is a lice problem at your child’s school or classroom, as early detection will help keep your household louse-free.
Step 2: Smother And Blow Dry, The Nuvo Method
The “ nuvo method” is non-toxic, inexpensive, and was found to be extremely effective in a study published in Pediatrics magazine. If you find live lice, then do not skip this step.
What You’ll Need:
* Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleaser
* Hair Dryer
How To Do It:
1. Apply the skin cleanser throughout the hair, making sure to get all the hair close to the scalp.
2. Comb or brush out as much excess as possible.
3. Use a blow dryer to dry all the hair, which will dry the skin cleanser onto the scalp and hair. This “shrink wraps” live lice.
4. Leave dried cleanser on the head for at least 8 hours. You can leave it on overnight, covering the head with a plastic hair cap.
Repeat once a week, for three weeks. This lice remedy method was found to be 97 percent effective in tests.
Step 3: Ongoing Prevention With Oils, Blow Drying, And Heat
The Nuvo method (above) is highly effective, but you might not want to go through the process every time a new lice report comes home from school. Try these preventative methods to keep lice at bay.
*Use tea tree oil or neem oil shampoo for ongoing prevention. Studies have shown that neem oil, tea tree oil, coconut oil, and lavender oil are highly effective against lice. You can also add a combination of these essential oils to your shampoo for ongoing prevention.
*Blow dry hair often, as drying out (dehydrating) the nits and lice is also effective in killing them.
*If you know for sure you have a lice infestation and are treating it, put all bedsheets, pillowcases, stuffed animals, and other fabric in the dryer for 30 minutes at high heat. This will kill any lice or nits that have fallen off the head.
The table below provides an overview of chemical treatments for hair lice and the potential hazards associated with their use.
Naomi Imatome-Yun, is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, managing editor, and start-up consultant based in Santa Monica, CA.
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