Home Remedy Lice Treatments

At the first sign of scratching, you may be tempted to scour the Internet for quick, easy, and at times homemade cures. However, we’d encourage you to take a breath, do your research, and truly explore what you may need to fight the scourge of lice. The advent of super-lice, now reported as present in 25 states and increasingly resistant to traditional remedies, is increasing fervor to find a foolproof treatment; however, it still benefits you to spend time exploring what will work and what won’t.

Characteristics of Super Lice

This new strain of lice, far harder to beat and keep away, has been in our awareness since roughly 2007. A Journal of Medical Entomology study noted that lice examined between 2007 and 2009 were getting more difficult to treat. These “super lice” are both persistent and resistant. They stubbornly return, often striking the same child or family multiple times. Further, they are no longer vulnerable to most traditional over-the- counter shampoos and treatments, rendering these remedies useless.

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Below, we list some commonly dispensed remedies for lice, along with reasons why they’re largely defenseless against this more hardy and resilient strain of superbugs.

What Remedies Don’t Really Work?

Mayonnaise, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil

This trio of oil and oil-based products have long been touted as viable at-home lice remedies, for two reasons. First, it was long believed that oily hair would prevent lice from latching on and creating an infestation; second, because it was believed that a large quantity of oil would, in effect, smother lice and make their living quarters inhospitable.

However, it has since been determined that neither of these assertions is true. Lice gain their literal lifeblood from blood in the scalp, and therefore their grip on hair is irrelevant to their ability to affix to the scalp. While we believed that the viscous qualities of oil cut off the air supply to lice, we’re now learning that lice have the ability to shut down their respiratory systems as a protective mechanism. Even if some lice eggs were pulled loose from the treatments, nymphs (baby lice) and adult lice could still live on after such a treatment.

So if natural remedies don’t work, some of the chemicals on the market have to be able to do the job … right?

Pyrethrins

Pyrethrin, a natural extract derived from the chrysanthemum plant, has long been an active ingredient in some over-the- counter medications and medicated shampoos to treat lice infestations. They are central nervous system neurotoxins for lice, but their effectiveness is now considerably less, as super lice continue to develop immunity to these common remedies.

Even if it were more effective, only the central nervous systems of adult lice are affected by the toxin; nymphs and lice eggs (whose CNSs have not yet developed) are unaffected by this chemical. Add to all this, the fact that those with ragweed allergies or other respiratory problems have trouble with pyrethrins, and you find a remedy that may be more trouble than it’s worth.

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Malathion

Malathion is a more powerful neurotoxin than pyrethrins, and therefore curried favor for several years as a viable alternative to weaker pyrethrins. However, there are also dangers to using this substance. Yes, malathion is a strong neurotoxin for lice; however, it is also a strong neurotoxin for humans. Prolonged exposure can cause nosebleeds, flu-like symptoms, assorted pains, and hair loss.

Such a dangerous (and expensive, at $145 for a 2 oz. bottle) treatment, which would need to recur if super lice returned, is likely, not worth the serious side effects it could cause. As with pyrethrins, this powerful chemical is only effective for adult lice but leaves nymphs and lice eggs untouched.

So What Should You Do?

The arguments above may have left you feeling as though all traditional avenues are exhausted, and you may feel at a loss to make any headway against this seemingly unstoppable infestation. However, there are ways to curb lice, and to keep them away for longer. Some proven strategies:

Seek Products with Natural Ingredients

While the chemicals in harsher products may be less effective than you might hope, there are essential oils and other natural ingredients that can reduce the staying power of lice. Antifungal neem oil, for example, has been used in India for thousands of years to deter lice. Antiseptic oils like tea tree and peppermint oil can also make a difference in reducing the length of a lice infestation.

Wet Combing

Fine metal combs, designed for removal of lice and lice eggs, are recommended weekly to manually get rid of the offenders. Particularly for very young children, who may be disproportionately affected by stronger or more chemical-laden treatments, using these combs diligently in wet hair can stop the spread of lice.

High-Temperature Laundering

While it’s important to note that lice cannot live without the blood supply of the scalp, it is important to reduce the risk that those on their final breaths will reattach to the scalp. You can do this by laundering bedding, clothing, and other fabrics that have been near the lice-infested individual, and do so at a temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit/54 degrees Celsius.

Minimize Threats of Re-Infestation

  • Even after you remove threats of lice surviving in the home, ensure that those around you (neighbors, schools, other public places) are doing the same.
  • Ask questions often as you navigate the aftermath of an outbreak in the community, doing your best to ensure that you and your family are aware of practices that heighten the risk of re-infestation (improperly laundered favorite garments, heads held close while on the phone, rushed lice removal), and are actively seeking to mitigate these risks.
  • As you seek to reduce the stranglehold that lice have on your family’s routine and well-being, it’s important to ensure that remedies you do seek will work effectively and efficiently.

Margaret Hall

You can connect with her through her blog at http://www.clearlice.com/blog

 

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