Not long ago we had two foster children arrive in our home with lice. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover their uninvited guests until they’d been in our home for a week and by that time five members of our family had traces of lice.
The bad news is that it takes a long, LONG time to check 15 people for lice (8-10 hours with 2-3 of us checking at a time).
The good news is that we quickly eradicated the lice from our home and family using essential oils and a good quality nit comb.
There are several facts about lice that are helpful to know as you work to get rid of them and to prevent them from spreading.
- Adult lice can live for only 24-48 hours off a human body.
- Adult lice do not jump or fly so they can only be spread by direct contact, usually direct head to head contact, but it is possible (although unlikely) for them to spread via hats, hair brushes or pillow cases.
- Nits (egg phase) can live off a human head for 10 days, but must feed within 45 minutes of hatching or they will die.
- Lice live for about a month.
- Nits (eggs) take 10-12 days to hatch.
- Nymphs (young lice) take 10 days to mature. Before they mature they can not move from head to head and they can not lay eggs.
What you need to treat lice naturally.
- High quality nit comb – Seriously, this is important. It’s the only thing that will completely get rid of lice AND the nits.
- Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree oil) – Not only will this repel lice, it can also KILL them.
- Coconut oil or conditioner
Nice, but optional:
Since the stakes were high and I felt the risk of spreading this among the 15 members of our household, we took some extra precautions.
How to Eliminate Lice from your home and family:
1. Each day wet comb the hair of every member of the household. (full details on how to wet comb below) If someone has hair shorter than 1/2 inch, a thorough visual check will suffice.
Wet comb everyone, trust me. Those little critters can and will move and in the nymph stage they can be as small as a pin head. If you miss one and there are children involved, you run the risk of them spreading. The oil (or conditioner) that you use to wet comb will stun the lice so that they won’t be able to move and avoid being combed out of the hair.
As an extra precaution we checked each person for at least 3 day after they showed no signs of lice activity (no lice, no nymphs, no nits). This isn’t necessary, you may just check until a person is completely clear for one day.
After a person is ‘clear’, wait 7 days then wet comb again (if they aren’t clear, wet comb each day until they are clear). Then, wait 7 more days and wet comb again. Based on the life cycle of lice, you will need to wet check over a series of 3 weeks.
2. Discontinue using brushes and hair bows for 3 days
Lice should die within 24-48 hours and there shouldn’t be any nits on these items. If you wish to be extra cautious, you can boil items that will withstand it OR wait 10 days before using them again.
Then only ‘clear’ people should use these items. Designate a couple of combs for those who are not ‘clear’ and boil or check them regularly.
3. When you first discover lice, run bedding through the washer and dryer on the hot setting.
Use your discretion depending upon how wide spread the problem is. We knew that the two children were WELL into the full life cycle of lice (they had scores of adults, nits and nymphs), so we washed everything, even clothing.
4. Put 5-20 drops of tea tree essential oil into all bottles of shampoo used by your household.
Tea Tree is an effective lice repellent, so this step will prevent the spread of lice.
5. Each day run all bedding from those with evidence of lice through the hottest setting on your dryer. (This isn’t strictly necessary, but it made me feel better.)
Other helpful tips:
- If you have boys and they don’t mind, cut their hair with the 1/4 guard on the clippers.
- Keep long hair french braided to discourage the lice spreading.
- Put tea tree oil directly onto the hair near the scalp. We used a small spray bottle. (Be careful about getting undiluted tee tree oil directly onto the scalp as it can be a ‘hot’ oil and cause irritation).
Method for wet combing with the lice comb:
We had lots of practice at this and got really good at combing hair with the lice comb. You may use the essential oil lice treatment recipe that I posted below or you may purchase large quantities of conditioner.
The conditioner will stun the lice so that they don’t crawl around the head and therefore avoid your combing efforts. The essential oil recipe should also stun the lice, but it will also kill them and the coconut oil should loosen the ‘glue’ that lice use to hold their eggs in place on the hair shaft.
- Divide hair into 1-2 inch square segments. We found that dividing hair on a portion of the head, combing it and then moving on to another portion of the head was most efficient. Use larger segments for thinner hair and smaller for thicker hair.
- Taking one segment at a time apply essential oil mix or conditioner to scalp and hair close to the scalp.
- Thoroughly comb through that segment. Be sure you run the nit comb along the curve of the scalp. Lice will be close to the scalp and nits will be on the hair shaft about 1/4 inch from the scalp. Comb once or twice starting with the nit comb at the top of the segment, then comb once or twice starting with the nit comb on the right side of the segment, then once or twice starting at the bottom of the segment and finish with once or twice starting at the left side of the segment. The point is for that nit comb to touch every part of that scalp and run through every bit of hair, especially hair close to the scalp.
Essential Oil Lice Treatment Recipe
4 drops Meleleuca Alternifolia
4 drops Thyme
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Geranium
Mix these essential oils together and then combine with 1 cup (or so) of coconut oil. The coconut oil works to smother and stun the lice and helps to dissolve the ‘glue’ that lice use to attach the to the hair shaft about 1/4 inch from the scalp.
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