Head lice spread from head-to-head contact. They don’t fly or hop but they crawl. These six legged buggers prefer warm and dark environment particularly the area behind your ears or above the neck. And when you don’t take any precautionary measures, their numbers keep on multiplying as they lay about 6 to 10 nits (lice’s eggs) daily. And you end up with lice infestation. Head lice problem, when not dealt properly, can easily retreat within a week. There could be a number of reasons behind it. You might have left some lingering lice or nits in the scalp or the medication was not strong enough to deal with the level of severity. Besides that, some lice are resistant to the particular OTC medication, we use. Following proper supplemental measures is equally important. And that is not possible without knowing the basic facts about head lice.
Table of Contents
- How to Get Rid of Lice Fast?
- What to Do if Your Child Has Lice?
- How to Get Rid of Lice Permanently?
- 3 Common Types of Lice
- Head Lice 101
- Medical Treatment for Head Lice
- Possible Side Effects of Prescription Treatment
- Body Lice Infestation
- Public Lice/Crab Lice
How to Get Rid of Lice Fast?
To get rid of lice permanently, you would have to follow a certain plan. That is the only way to get 100% success in getting rid of head lice. Here we have summed up a few effective head lice treatments to get rid of lice permanently.
1. Topical Treatments
The easiest way to deal with head lice is to apply some topical product. Drugstore shelves and markets are filled with a number of anti-lice products. You can also buy them online. Pick the one that suits the infested person’s condition and age (be more careful when you are picking for kids or pregnant/nursing women). For example, for children, over-the-counter medicated shampoos (tea tree oil shampoo) and essential oil spray are the safest choice. Application of essential oils particularly tea tree oil (tea tree oil is a natural insecticide) is known for its effectiveness. Instead of applying it directly on your scalp, add a small quantity of olive oil or coconut oil in it. Most of the topical products come with excellent lice combs (even if they don’t, buy one for yourself). Use them in your hair after applying the anti-lice product. It helps in getting rid of dead and senseless lice and nits. Make sure you are using it according to the instructions. Some products must be repeated after a week or so. Make certain you are doing that. If you are not satisfied with the results, talk to the pharmacist or human head lice expert about some other medication.
2. No Comb Treatments
Those who don’t want to spend hours in combing out their hair to get rid of nits and lice, we have some good news to share. Prescription medication is what you should try. Application of a few minutes to some hours can easily clean your scalp of different head lice (juvenile or adult lice) and nits. The only negative aspect of such cures is the possibility of side effects. The most common side effects may include—dandruff, redness of eyes, irritation in scalp and skin and rough or frizzy hair. Some of the best no-comb prescription medications are;
- Ivermectin Lotion (SKlice)
- Malathion lotion (ovide)
- Benzyl Alcohol Lotion (ulesfia)
- Spinosad Topical Suspension (Natroba)
- Lindane head lice shampoos
Note: If you are using them on kids’ scalp, read the label to know what it instructs about the amount for children.
3. Home Remedies for Lice
Those who do not want to opt for some chemical-based product must try home remedies. There are a number of items available on your kitchen shelves that you can use for killing lice. Some of them may include;
Coconut oil does not work as an insecticide. It has a different function to perform in lice infestation. Its greasy consistency immobilizes lice, leaving them unable to move and grow as freely as they normally do in a clean scalp. When you have your scalp drenched in coconut oil, it would be easier to comb out the nasty lice. Some other ways to use coconut oil for getting rid of lice are;
- Coconut Oil with Garlic
Garlic not just contain antiseptic properties but its strong smell is an effective repellent against lice. Make the paste of about 8 to 10 garlic cloves and add it in 3 teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply it in your scalp and cover your head with a shower cap. Leave it for about half an hour. Now use a nit comb to get nits and lice out, before washing with hot water.
- Coconut Oil with Tea Tree Oil
Mix 5 to 6 drops of tea tree oil in 2 tbsp. of coconut oil. The insecticide properties of tea tree oil work more effectively when mixed with coconut oil.
- Coconut Oil with Apple Cider Vinegar
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps in cutting down the glue-like substance that a female louse releases to attach the nits to the hair shafts. As nits do not come off easily, application of vinegar would help. To get the best results, coat your scalp with apple cider vinegar first and let it dry. Then apply coconut oil over it. Cover your head with a shower cap. Leave it that way for about 4 to 5 hours. Don’t forget to comb out lice and nits before shampooing. Lastly, blow dry hair to kill any lingering lice.
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Curing Lice with Onions
Onions are enriched with sulfur which is a known ingredient for killing lice. Extract some fresh onion juice and apply it on your scalp. Make sure it has reached down to the roots of the hair. Keep it in your scalp for about four hours before rinsing. Don’t forget to use a high quality lice comb after washing your hair. Using a flat iron/hair straightener after rinsing too can kill lice (lice can’t stand hot temperature).
Get advantage of the acidic qualities of lemon juice to fight lice infestation. Follow a few simple steps to disinfect your scalp. Extract lemon juice according to your hair’s length. Apply it to dampen your hair and scalp. Leave it for about 10 to 15 minutes (or till it dries completely) before rinsing your hair. Mixing lemon juice with garlic paste is yet another effective remedy to combat lice.
What to Do if Your Child Has Lice?
Parents usually get panicked when they see their child as a victim of head lice infestation. Is it ok to panic? If not, then what should be the right strategy by the parents? Read on to know more about lice infestation and head lice treatment.
No Need to Freak out
Feeling panicked about head lice infestation in your child is natural. But it cannot help you in any way. Hold on and relax. Head lice are harmless parasitic insects. They do not cause any serious threat to your child’s health. All you need is to follow an effective plan (to kill) to get rid of nits and lice permanently.
Combing is the Key
Drug stores are flooded with various types of anti-lice products. What about nits? For long-term solution of lice infestation, it is essential to get rid of each and every lice egg found in the scalp. As medication does not remove nits, you’d have to take off those remaining head lice eggs on your own. It used to be a tedious task in the past but not anymore. Nit/lice combs and fined-toothed metal comb promise the fastest and easiest solution to the problem. Besides that, you can use your fingernails or tweezer to pluck those glued parasites out of the hair shafts. All you need is to dampen your child’s hair first.
Best Lice Products & Treatments for Kids
Find the most effective and safe anti-lice products for your child. In case, these products don’t work as effectively as you want, getting medical advice is another option. Some of the best products may include:
Trying over-the-counter medicated shampoos is the easiest anti-lice remedy for kids. RID anti-lice shampoo is both safe and effective. For best results, use according to the purchase guidelines. It should be applied in dry hair. The amount of shampoo depends on the length of hair. The best thing about it is the conditioning formula that keeps the hair soft after using it (that generally lacks in other head lice shampoos).
Nix brings several anti-lice products, each effective on different head lice formulations. Each product by Nix contains delousing tools to help you in getting rid of nasty nits, newly hatched lice and adult head lice. Nix crème rinse prevents re-infestation of lice for the next 2 weeks after first application.
Using lice freee spray is a non-toxic way of getting rid of lice. This head lice product is safer for using on kids as young as 6 months old, than many other lice sprays. All you have to do is to spray it and wait till it gets dry.
LiceMD is a chemical-free anti-lice product. Approved and tested by pediatricians, this product is safe for kids and works effectively on nits and lice. Its thicker consistency tends to lubricate the hair and makes it easy for you to comb out the lice and eggs.
Its non-flammable formula makes it a safer choice for your child. Just 10 minutes of application is good enough to suffocate and dehydrate those scalp parasites.
- Malathion Lotion 5%
Though not recommended for the kids under 6 (its flammable), this prescription insecticide is effective on lice. It must not be exposed to any heat source. Simply apply it in the scalp and leave for 10 to 12 hours and rinse well with shampoo. Reuse it after 7 to 9 days, if you find any lingering louse.
Hire a Delousing Service
Those who do not want to go through all the toxic or non-toxic procedures, think about hiring some head lice expert for delousing your child’s scalp. To know about such professionals, inquire the people in your close social circle.
How to Get Rid of Lice Permanently?
If I have to answer it in one word, I’d say NO! Not because we lack useful anti-lice products or home remedies. It is because we do not follow the right and recommended way to use these products. And most of all, it is essential to keep checking the scalp to avoid retreatment (and that we don’t do in most of the cases). As lice have the ability to reproduce quickly, even a single lice or nit left in the scalp, can cause recurring of lice.
A female louse lays about 6 to 10 eggs in a day. The eggs hatch within a week or so. It takes 7 to 10 days for these juvenile lice to turn into adult. The sooner they turn adult; a new process of reproduction starts. So, it is essential to remove each and every nit and lice.
Removing them from your hair is not just enough, you have to get them out from the place where you live. These can be found on the things; an infected person has been using. So, it is really important to sanitize all such products. The main items to sanitize may include—bed linens, pillow covers, towel, clothes of infected person, mittens, favorite stuff toy and all head accessories. To sanitize them, wash them in extremely hot water and then blow dry or iron them. Furthermore, the carpet, rugs, furniture and floor must be vacuumed. There might be some broken hair with a few nits or lice over them. Once you have vacuumed the house, throw the litter in sealed plastic bag to avoid re-infestation. Last but not the least, avoid head to head contact with people infested with lice. Unless you don’t follow all these precautionary measures, you can’t hope to end lice permanently.
Don’t pay heed to different myths regarding live lice infestation. Anyone with hair on his/her head can get infested with lice. It has nothing to do with age of the people or length of the hair. People of every age group and all hair lengths can be the victim of lice epidemic.
3 Common Types of Lice
Lice come in three main types. Let’s read on to find what you should know about each one of them.
1. Head Lice
These parasites are found only in humans. These can be anywhere on your scalp, particularly on the nape of the neck. Their only food source is human blood.
2. Body Lice
Different from common head lice, body lice stay on your clothing and lay eggs on them. They feed on human blood and when they need to suck it, they crawl and get it from your body.
3. Public Lice/Crab Lice
The smallest in size, public lice are different in looks. When you see them through a microscope, they have large front legs and a crab-like body. These too breed in the hair but not the scalp hair but the hair in the genital area. When such man or woman have sex, these lice can easily transfer from one body to the other.
Head Lice 101
How Head Lice Spread?
Lice cannot fly or hop, all they can do is to crawl from place to place. Head to head contact is the most common cause of head lice infestation. Besides that, sharing your household items (towel, combs, brushes, clothes, caps, coats, scarves etc.) with the infested people can easily cause lice problem.
Symptoms of Head Lice
The most common symptoms of lice infestation may include;
- Constant itching.
- A moving sensation or tickling.
- Soars or red bumps on the scalp (as a result of itching).
- Sleeplessness because of irritation and continuous itching.
- Appearance of tiny sand grain like bodies on hair shafts.
Head lice Allergies
In extreme cases of lice infestation, you may end up with a severe allergic reaction resulted from louse saliva. Its most common symptoms are continuous itching on your neck, ear and scalp. Some other allergic reactions may include—tender lymph nodes on the neck and infected bumps on hair line or on the top of the back.
What if you Suspect Head lice?
If you suspect head lice, it is advised to confirm it by seeing your dermatologist. Many times head lice are confused with dandruff, hair debris or empty nits. So, before trying some over-the-counter shampoos or medications, get it checked by some health care professional. If your child has got infested from his school, notify the school about the issue. It is an essential step for the prevention of head lice in future.
Most Popular Head Lice Myths
- People used to connect head lice infestation with poor hygiene. But this myth is busted now. Research has proved that there is no link between head lice and uncleanliness.
- Head lice do not spread from animals and pets. Many people relate it to dog lice and recommend a flea shampoo as a suitable cure. That is wrong. Both are quite different. Just know, head lice live on human blood ONLY.
- Head lice are harmless and do not cause transmission of any disease in your body.
Medical Treatment for Head Lice
When it comes to curing the head lice epidemic, markets are flooded with over-the-counter shampoos, lotions, and crème rinse. There might be severe cases, when such products do not work effectively. To deal with such situation, doctors may prescribe some OTC medicines. Some of the them are;
1. Malathion Lotion (Ovide)
It’s one of the most recommended head lice medication (for topical use only). Apply it for about 8 to 12 hours in the scalp. Then rinse it off well. Keep checking the scalp for the retreatment of lice. If lice reappear, reuse the lotion.
2. Ivermectin Lotion (SKlice)
Approved by FDA, this anti-lice lotion is safe for the babies aged six months and more. All you need is to keep it in the scalp for about 10 minutes. And then rinse it off. The product is so good that you don’t need to use a nit comb after using it.
3. Spinosad Topical Suspension (Natroba)
Spinosad topical suspension is an easy and simple cure for lice infestation. Cover the scalp, using about one bottle of it. Leave it in your hair for 10 minutes and then wash hair well. This medicine is safe for patients aging 4 years and on.
4. Benzyl Alcohol Lotion (ulesfia)
Yet another effective non-toxic topical lotion for head lice. Its main function is to kill lice by depriving them of oxygen. Apply it on the scalp and leave it for about 10 minutes. Then rinse off. This product is not suitable for the kids under 6 months of age.
It’s an anti-lice shampoo that comes with a number of side effects. It is not suitable for general use. Doctors recommend it only, when all other remedies fail. Keeping in view the risks, American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend it for children. It’s also not suitable for nursing or pregnant women and patients of HIV aids.
Possible Side Effects of Prescription Treatment
Each of the prescription anti-lice item has some side effects. The most common reactions may include;
- Roughness of hair
- Redness of eyes
- A burning sensation in scalp
- Irritation or itching in eyes, scalp or skin
Body Lice Infestation
When you fall victim of body lice infestation, these small parasites not just stay on your body but adult lice also lay eggs on your clothes and bedding. When body lice need blood, they come to your naked skin to suck it (3 to 4 times in a day). Body lice tend to release its waste on your clothing or on your skin. These are quite similar to head lice in looks but it’s bigger in size. Body lice are usually found near the body areas where the eggs get proper heat (about 75° and 100° Fahrenheit) for hatching. A female louse lays about 300 eggs in her whole adulthood and 10 eggs in a day. Sometimes lice eggs can be seen in body hair. The sooner these lice eggs or hatch, you will have more newly hatched louse roaming over you. The juvenile louse is equally irritating and may intensify the itching.
Causes of Body Louse
The most common cause of body lice is poor hygiene. Body lice is not as common as head lice. It is often observed among prisoners who live in unhygienic conditions or in destitute and homeless people who barely change their clothes or take a bath. Body lice are contagious. If someone comes in contact with the infested person or his belongings (clothing, towel or bedding), he too can end up with it. Kids are less likely to have it.
Symptoms of Body Lice
- The most common symptom of body lice is constant itching (pruritus).
- The lice saliva may cause allergic reaction to the skin on neck and torso. The infested person may experience red, inflamed bumps or welt-like marks.
- Victim feels tired and fatigued.
- In reaction to the severe biting, the affected skin gets discolored and thick particularly around the body areas like groin and waist. This condition is termed as ‘vagabond’s disease’.
- The body parts like armpits, waistline, trunk or the area close to bra step (all the areas where clothes are tighter), are likely to experience itching and sores. These are the areas where your skin is continuously pressed with clothes.
- Scratching lice bites may cause skin infection (bacterial or fungal).
- In the places with poor hygiene and worst sanitary conditions, body lice may cause some diseases. These may include—louse-borne (epidemic) typhus, trench fever and louse-borne relapsing fever.
Diagnosis of Body Lice
To diagnose it, keep checking the skin or seams of clothes for any signs of eggs and crawling parasites. They are good enough in the size (about the size of sesame seeds) and can be seen with your naked eyes. They can be seen crawling on your clothes or beddings. Using a magnifying glass can also help in detecting louse’s presence. The most recommended way is to get it checked by some professional healthcare provider. People with body lice should also be tested for public and head lice.
How to Control Body Lice?
The first and the most important step to control body lice infestation is to opt for an improved hygienic routine. The infested person should take bath daily and change the clothes at least twice a week. The other people who are sharing space with the infected person (especially their sex partner), should also take care of their personal hygiene. Besides that, the clothes, towel and bedding of the infested person should be washed in hot water and dry cleaned regularly (throwing them away is another applicable option) to avoid any body lice involvement. The temperature while dry cleaning should be about 130 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes. Ironing the clothes will also help in killing the body lice and nits. Make certain that no one is sharing the belongings of the infested person.
Using Pesticides to Treat Body Lice
Those who have hairy bodies should wash their bodies with some safe and dermatologist’s recommended pesticide (pediculicide). Prefer to use the ones that contain pyrethrum extracts or permethrin. Doctors may also prescribe you to wash your body with some liquid containing benzyl alcohol or malathione. Just make sure, you are not using any lice medication without doctor’s prescription.
Public Lice/Crab Lice
Residing in coarse body hair, these parasitic insects are 2mm long in yellowish-grey hue. They have six tiny legs. Quite different from the other two types of lice, lets read on to know more about it.
What are Public Lice?
Public lice are tiny crab-like bodies. These are severer than the other two types of lice. Public lice are contagious and it spread with sexual connection. If someone is diagnosed with public lice, that does not mean he is dirty or unhygienic. Anyone who comes in close physical contact with the infested person can have this problem.
Where are Public Lice Found?
The most common places for public lice infestation are the public hair on your genital areas. Besides that, the other body parts like hairy armpits, chest hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, moustache, beards, even your facial hair too are at the risk of public lice infestation. Using infested person’s clothes and bedding too may cause public lice. Public lice do not cause by the everyday activities like hand shake, hugging or sitting with the infested person. Some people fear it to be the result of sharing the same furniture or toilet seat. But that is not true. Public lice are not likely to leave their human host except when they are dead. As they feed on human blood, they can’t survive without blood for more than two days.
Note: Kids too can suffer from public lice infestation, especially when they sleep with the infested person in the same bed. They can get lice in their eyebrows and eyelids (blepharitis). If you find kids with public lice infestation in their genital areas, it might be an indication of sexual abuse (be careful as parents).
Symptoms of Public Lice
- Itching (biting louse cause it) in the genital parts of the body is the first and the most common symptom of public lice. Itching takes place after 5 to 6 days of initial infestation. As reports suggest, itching tends to increase at night.
- Some victims might experience low grade fever with public lice.
- Infested person feels low and irritated for most of the time.
- Appearance of pale bluish spots near public lice’s bites
- If itching exceeds, victim may end up with skin allergies and lice parasite infection in the affected body part.
- Those who are already suffering from some sexually transmitted disease are more likely to fall victim of public lice. So, they better be careful about intense and constant itching sensation.
Diagnosing public lice is quite simple. All you need to do is to check your genital area closely. Visually observing lice is quite possible, but you can also use a magnifying glass to see them. It may help in a better diagnosis. Here is what you need to look for;
- Find the tiny crab-like bodies of live lice crawling in your public hair. These parasites are grayish pale in color. Some might have them in darker shades (continuous sucking of blood might change the color into some darker shade).
- Lice eggs too indicate the severe lice infestation. Lice lay tiny yellow or white nits. On seeing closer, nits can be tracked around the roots of the public hair.
- If you still are not sure, get it checked by your doctor.
How are Public Lice Treated?
- The first step should always be prevention. Make sure you are not using infected person’s towel or bedding. Wash infested person’s clothes, towel and beddings in extremely hot water to kill eggs and lice.
- For treating it, there are a number of over-the-counter medicated shampoos, drugs, creams and lotions. You don’t need to consult your doctor before using them. These products are quite safe and you can use it by following the instructions given on the packaging. Nix, Rid and A-200 are the most common brands for curing public lice. Use them repeatedly after 9 to 10 days (only 1 product at a time), to get rid of lice permanently.
- For curing public lice in eye brows and eyelashes, you must consult your doctor first. Don’t do it on your own. It might be risky.
- Nursing and pregnant women must not use any medication without consulting their physician.
- For a permanent solution, medicines are available. Use them with your physician’s recommendation. Some of the best products for treating public lice may include—Malathion (Ovide), Ivermectin (Stromectol) and Lindane (extremely toxic, not suitable for pregnant or nursing ladies).
There are numerous ways of getting rid of head lice permanently. Be it an OTC treatment, prescription medication or some home remedy, all can work effectively. What you really need to do is to stay calm and persistent, and don’t forget to follow the essential precautionary measure. Soon these pesky parasites will be out of your family.