Back to School: Preventing and Treating Lice
It was only a matter of time before Lice mutated to beat the medications and chemicals used to treat them. We have seen this across the board in the past few years. Illnesses, infections, bugs all have been altered due to the overuse of medications, pesticides and chemicals in our society. (That or they are dying off). Why people are surprised that there is now a “Super Lice Bug” blows my mind. It was bound to happen.
Kids are heading toward the bus stop, being dropped off, or walking with friends to school each day. They spend countless hours in close confines of other little heads, possibly contaminated with lice. Even homeschooled children or those too young to be in school but go on regular outings with mom are at risk of exposure to lice. Extra-curricular activities, library play areas, dressing rooms, anywhere that other people have been or currently are can hold a risk of inviting lice onto your child (or yourself). The thought alone is enough to give you an itchy scalp.
Head lice affect as many as 12 million people in the US each year, mostly children. – According to the CDC
What are Lice?
Pediculosis humanus var capitis, better known as lice, are a bloodsucking parasite specific to humans. They bite 4-5 times a day and inject an anti-coagulant in their saliva. Scratching the bites can cause an infection. Lice are 2.5-3mm long and quite flat. They are easily transferred from head to head, but they cannot fly or jump. Sharing towels, pillows, blankets, hair brushes, or play mats are also known ways of contracting lice. Female lice live up to 3 months, laying up to 300 eggs during their life. Each egg is attached to a shaft of hair. These eggs are called nits. Nits hatch 6-10 days after being laid. (https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/lice/ )
What are Super Lice?
The good news: Super lice are not deadly or any scarier than ordinary lice. They are just harder, MUCH harder to get rid of. Scientists have reported that lice in at least 25 states have developed resistance to over-the-counter treatments. It was found that 104 out of the 109 lice populations tested had high levels of gene mutations, which have been linked to resistance to pyrethroids. (Journal of Medical Entomology)
Symptoms of Lice:
The most common symptom of lice is itching. Lice may not cause any symptoms at first though. Itching on the scalp may start weeks or even months after lice have started to spread. Scratching can make the skin raw and cause oozing of clear fluid or a crusted over area of the scalp, and it may get infected.
Steering clear of chemicals and drugs (the cause of the mutating insects), I’ve created a list of several options you can use to prevent lice from entering your family’s personal space.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo
- Add ½ teaspoon of witch hazel, 8-10 drops of tea tree oil, and 8 oz of purified water to a spray bottle and spray backpacks, car seats, pillows, and mist the hair each day before walking out the door
- Rub coconut oil with 2 drops of tea tree oil across hair line before leaving each day
You found Lice, now what?
There are many over-the-counter options such as Nix, Rid, A-200 and Pronto and prescription varieties like Ovide or Kwell. But before you reach for these, know that they are filled with neurotoxins, which kill lice by attacking the central nervous system. Rid, Pronto, and A-200 contain pyrethrins, and Nix contains permethrin, all used in common garden pesticides. Ovide contains an even stronger neurotoxin, malathion, the same pesticide band by many communities. (source: http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/09/07/back-school-lice-alert-theres-no-need-douse-your-kids-pesticides?cmpid=tp-ptnr-mommypotamus )
Natural solutions to lice that people swear by can be found all over the internet, but it’s hard to decide the best resolution for you. There’s no right or wrong answer, and you may find one that becomes your go-to over the years. I’ve pulled the remedies that seem to have the highest success rates:
- Use olive oil with a drop of rosemary essential oil, tea tree oil, and theives oil mixed in. Run this mixture through the hair and comb in small sections. Make sure to use a fine tooth comb or a specific lice comb. Once the lice have been combed out, you can wash the hair with dish soap (blue dawn) if needed to get the remaining oil out.
- Suffocation: A study showed that coating the scalp with mineral oil and chemicals would suffocate the lice, but that is NOT a natural solution. You can use a coconut or olive oil on the hair/scalp and cover with a shower cap for 12 hours. You will need to repeat the process again in 2-3 days to catch the newly hatched lice. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933647/ )
- Create a lotion with a teaspoon of shampoo and 7 drops of tea tree oil. Lather the lotion into the hair and let it sit for 15-20 minutes and then rinse out and use the Nit Comb through small sections until all lice are gone. A study showed that a lotion containing 1% lavender and 10% tea tree oils was 97.6% effective in killing lice, while insecticides like pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide were only 25% effective. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933647/ )
- Salt, Vinegar and Oil: Together they work to dehydrate and kill the lice. Create a spray with ¼ cup of salt dissolved in ¼ cup on warm vinegar and coat the hair. Allow to sit until fully dry and then coat the head with coconut or olive oil and comb out the dead lice. (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2011/09/12/getting-rid-of-lice/ )
- Combine 1 Tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, 8-10 drops of tea tree oil, and water (use a mason jar and mix all ingredients). Rinse the hair with vinegar and apply “shampoo” to head for at least 5 minutes. Comb hair with Lice Comb. (source: http://mommyfootprint.com/natural-lice-prevention/ )
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Oil: Wet hair and apply vinegar to hair. Allow the hair to completely dry (with vinegar) and coat scalp and hair evenly with coconut or olive oil to suffocate the lice. Pull all of the hair under a shower cap and let sit for either hours before using the Lice Comb and washing out.
- A great tutorial on the process of removing nits and lice by using a natural product by Hair Fairies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZmHQXcQWUo
The catch: You cannot miss even one egg or the entire process will need to be repeated. Make sure to wash EVERYTHING that could be carrying the lice and dry on HOT.