The Lousy Moms Guide To Natural Head Lice Treatment

2/7/11 - By Anna Fader

Is it just me or does it seem like lice outbreaks are becoming much more frequent in NYC schools? After never having gotten lice, my kids have had it twice each in the last two years and I keep hearing classrooms are breaking out with lice a few times a year. Perhaps this is due to the DOE changing their policy about sending kids home from school if nits are found in a child's hair, but whatever the reason it stinks for parents who have to be ever-vigilant to keep kids (and ourselves) lice-free.

Going through a lice infestation is never pretty, but I've managed to get pretty good at delousing my family. The most important thing is to make sure you nip it in the bud with a thorough treatment and don't keep having recurrences. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting lice and how to treat lice naturally if you do get them (hint, the answer is not "kindly").


Does my kid have lice?
If your kids head itches, assume they have lice. Even if you don't see any signs. Even if the nurse at school doesn't see any signs. Don't wait until it spreads around the family to treat it. The symptoms of lice are an itchy head. The scalp may become red and even have scratches on it due to itching. You probably won't see any live lice, but look for nits (eggs) attached to hair within an inch of the scalp. Nits are the color of fingernail dirt (indiscriminate, whitish, grayish, brown). They tend to be all around the edges of the hair (base of neck, around ears and hairline, but they can really be anywhere.

Natural Head Lice Treatments
When I was a kid the way people got rid of lice was basically to pour poison all over our heads and let it soak in real good. Now there are lots of much healthier solutions. It seems like just about everybody has a natural method for delousing. Most of them probably work just fine as long as you put the time in to thoroughly check the head for nits. If you don't feel confident that you can find all the nits on your child's head, then probably better to use a chemical solution that will kill the live lice and nits. But even if you use a chemical treatment you still have to vigilantly re-check the head and re-treat it because the chemicals will not be effective against the tiniest nits. Here are your basic options for the safest lice treatments:

LiceMD is not natural, but it does not contain pesticides and it is safe for kids. It uses synthetic lubricants similar to what you find in conditioner to help the nits slide out of your hair. It's what my pediatrician recommends.

Fairy Tales sells a line of organic lice treatment products especially for kids. I could not find these sold anywhere in the city, but you can buy them online.

Hair Fairies makes lice removal products for kids and also has a salon in NYC by Bryant Park where they will remove the lice for you. Their site has a video tutorial that is helpful for how to comb out nits with any product.

Logic Product Group sells LiceLogic, a natural, nontoxic treatment with organic ingredients. The company makes similar products to combat bedbugs, too.

Mayonnaise is another natural and inexpensive treatment. There is a great site with directions for using mayonnaise to get rid of lice. It has good tips for any method you use (many people also use this method with Pantene conditioner).

Be thorough! Whatever method you use, you will need a good lice comb to comb out the nits. After combing, you need to search thoroughly for the ones the comb missed. Expect to spend about an hour doing this. Then, every day for one week, check for nits you missed (you don't need to spend a whole hour every day). At the end of one week repeat the treatment because there will have been nits that were too small to be killed by the original treatment and too small for you to find.

You also have to wash all bedding, hats, coats, stuffed animals, etc in hot water. Anything you can't wash should be put away in a plastic bag for two weeks. The most important thing is to be thorough and follow through with all the steps. One missed louse can take you back to square one.

How to prevent lice from liking your kid. There are many natural ingredients that lice don't like and using a shampoo that makes you smell icky to lice can help keep them away. Again, Fairy Tales makes a rosemary lice repelling shampoo (or you can use their detangler), but supposedly tea tree oil, citronella oil and lavender are other ingredients they don't like, so using a shampoo with a strong smell of any of these should deter lice.

Great. Just writing this post has made my head feel itchy. Ack!