So, what exactly is Head Lice & how to get rid of them?
Head lice are blood-sucking parasites without wings, that feed off the rich blood supply to the scalp. They range in size from a full stop to a sesame seed! The eggs that the adult lays are known as ‘nits’.The female adult attaches the eggs close to the scalp at the base of the hair shaft, with a kind of glue close to the scalp, making it difficult to dislodge them!
Schools can be a hotbed for bugs and infections and every year as kids go back to school, parents have to deal with the problem of head lice! Head lice spread quickly particularly when kids are in such close proximity to each other in the classroom, so taking some preventative measures such as outlined below along with performing regular checks can help to prevent the spread of head lice.
How to check your child for head lice
Head lice are often found behind the ears, along the hairline and in the neck area, so make sure you check those areas when performing your routine checks. Head lice can be difficult to spot and sometimes get mistaken for Dandruff as the colour of the lice can vary from sandy coloured to nearly black, so you need to be vigilant. They are easier to see after they have fed on blood as they become dark red!
How do kids get head lice?
Head lice are spread from ‘head’ to ‘head’, so close personal contact increases the risk, as is the case in a classroom environment. The louse can crawl from head to head, from coat to coat, from hat to hat in a cloakroom and even from head to the desk to find the next head!
Once they find a new head they will start feeding and lay their eggs and hatch within 1 to 2 weeks. If your child has head lice it is important to clean items they have been in contact with such as:
- bed linen
- and clothes
How to prevent head lice?
Head lice have an aversion to certain aromas. Essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lavender and Rosemary are among some of their pet hates if you excuse the pun!!
You can make your own preventative ‘spritz spray’ by diluting any or a mix of the above essential oils with some water and put in a spray bottle. If you spritz the child’s hair and scalp with this mixture it will help to deter the little bugs!
Head lice can also get on hats and scarfs so it is better to keep these in the child’s bag rather than hanging with coats in communal cloakroom areas. You can also add some of the neat essential oil [not diluted] to their hats, scarfs, coats as a preventative step.
Other essential oils that can act as a deterrent for head lice:
Natural remedies to treat head lice
Tea tree oil and many other essential oils can kill lice and nits. You can add them neat to the comb or into your shampoo or conditioner. Tea tree oil is a wonderful disinfectant with a strong antiseptic odour which can act as a deterrent.
Vinegar is also useful as the scent knocks the adult louse out! If you infuse the vinegar with peppermint it is even more powerful as the peppermint makes them breath faster so they die off quicker. The only downside to this is the mixture takes a few days to infuse, ideally let it sit for a week, so best to be prepared and have some to hand!
Combing the hair frequently will dislodge lots of them. It will also disrupt their feeding patterns which weaken their ability to reproduce. Comb with a fine tooth comb with the teeth not more than 0.3mm apart. Make sure that the comb is white in colour so as to see the nits as you comb through.
Use a conditioner or Tea Tree Oil on the hair as you comb through. Well conditioned hair acts as a lubricant so that they can be dislodged with combing.
Natural Remedies to remove head lice from the scalp
Olive oil is great to loosen that glue-like substance they use to attach the egg to the base of the scalp. Infuse some Olive oil with Rosemary and apply it to the scalp at night and cover with a shower cap.
Leaving the Olive oil on the scalp overnight will help to melt that glue. Comb it through in the morning and wash the hair preferably with a scented shampoo. Coconut scented Lemon or Tea Tree shampoo. Remember they don’t like those scents!
A personal favourite & effective head lice treatment is this combination:
- 50 to 100 ml of Olive or Coconut oil
- 10ml of Apple Cider vinegar
- 20 drops of Tea tree oil
- 10 drops of Lavender oil
- 10 drops of Neem oil.
This mixture can be applied to the comb to help kill and dislodge the adult and egg. You can also massage into the scalp and leave overnight. Use a shower cap to protect the pillow!!
Head lice treatment – over the counter preparations
A product I sell in-store and recommend is called ‘Licener’. This is proving to be very effective. It’s a shampoo that contains Neem extract as the active ingredient.
The treatment kills lice and the eggs as the extract immobilises and suffocates the lice causing them to die off as the oxygen transportation is disrupted. As the Neem extract will also infiltrate the lice-eggs it kills both the adults and the eggs in one treatment.
Key points about Head lice:
- Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene
- Your child can’t catch them from pets
- Lice are wingless and therefore can’t fly or jump
- Head lice feed off the rich blood supply of the scalp
- You need to be vigilant and check your child’s hair regularly
- They range in size from a full stop to a sesame seed
- They can be easily mistaken for dandruff
- The eggs are attached close to the scalp so you need to be persistent with a fine tooth comb
- There are lots of natural oils as mentioned above which will kill both adult and eggs
- It can help to tie up long hair
- Use essential oil spritz spray as a deterrent
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