Lice infestations can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Those tiny, pesky insects cause itchiness and discomfort, especially for children. Luckily, there are natural ways to treat and prevent lice which is convenient and cost-effective.
One common treatment method includes the use of essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus. These oils have been known to help prevent lice and soothe the scalp. Another method involves thorough combing with a fine-toothed comb to remove lice and eggs, which is highly effective when done consistently.
To avoid future infestations, maintaining a clean environment and practicing proper hygiene are essential. Washing clothes, bedding, and personal items in hot water can help eliminate any lingering lice. By following these natural methods and precautions, you can effectively combat lice without resorting to harsh chemicals or expensive treatments.
Understanding Lice and Infestation
Types of Lice
There are three types of lice that infest humans:
- Pediculus humanus capitis: Head lice found on the scalp
- Pediculus humanus corporis: Body lice found on clothing and bedding
- Phthirus pubis: Pubic lice found in the pubic area
These lice can cause discomfort, itching, and allergic reactions.
Life Cycle of Lice
The life cycle of lice has three stages:
- Nits: Lice eggs attached to the hair shaft
- Nymph: Immature lice after hatching from nits
- Adult: Fully-grown lice that can lay eggs and reproduce
A complete life cycle lasts about 3 weeks.
Signs and Symptoms
Common signs of lice infestation include:
- Intense itching on the scalp
- Feeling of crawling lice on the head
- Red bumps due to scratching or allergic reactions
- Adult lice or nits visible on hair, especially near the neckline and behind the ears
It is most common among children, but can affect anyone with close head-to-head contact.
|Lice Type||Causes Itching||Common in Children||Allergic Reaction Risk|
Remember that early detection and treatment can help prevent the spread of lice.
Natural Home Remedies
The wet-combing technique is a simple and effective method for removing lice and nits. To perform this technique:
- Wet the hair with water
- Apply conditioner or olive oil
- Use a fine-toothed nit comb to comb through the hair in sections, removing lice and nits
- Requires regular repetition
Several essential oils have been found to be effective in treating head lice. These include:
- Tea tree oil
- Neem oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Lavender oil
- Anise oil
- Thyme oil
To use essential oils as a lice treatment:
- Dilute the chosen essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil
- Apply the mixture to the scalp and hair
- Leave it on for a few hours before washing it off
Note: Always perform a patch test before using any essential oil to prevent allergic reactions.
Mayonnaise and Other Household Products
Using mayonnaise or other household products like olive oil can help suffocate lice and make it easier to remove them using a nit comb. To use mayonnaise or olive oil:
- Apply a thick layer on the scalp and hair
- Cover the head with a shower cap
- Leave it on overnight before washing it off
Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, can help loosen the glue that holds nits to the hair shaft, making it easier to remove them. To use vinegar:
- Dilute vinegar with an equal amount of water
- Apply the solution to the hair
- Leave it on for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off
A comparison table of the natural remedies:
|Inexpensive||Requires regular repetition|
|Essential Oils||Effective||May cause allergic reactions|
|Mayonnaise/Olive Oil||Suffocates lice||Messy|
|Easy to access||Requires overnight application|
|Vinegar Solutions||Loosens nits||May cause irritation|
|Cheap and natural|
Prevention and Maintenance
Keeping a Clean Environment
- Vacuum regularly: Frequent vacuuming helps remove lice and nits from your home environment.
- Washing bedding and clothing: Launder items in hot water (at least 130°F) to kill lice and eggs.
Personal Hygiene and Care
Practicing good personal hygiene can minimize the risk of lice infestations.
- Combs and Brushes: Clean them regularly, and avoid sharing with others.
- Personal Items: Don’t share items like hats, headphones, or hair accessories.
Management at School and Sports
To reduce the spread of lice in schools or while participating in sports, it’s essential to:
- Avoid direct head-to-head contact: This is the most common way in which lice spread.
- Educate children: Teach them about lice prevention and the importance of not sharing personal items.
|Tips for prevention||School & Sports||Clean Environment||Personal Hygiene|
|Avoid direct contact||✓|
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments usually contain permethrin or pyrethrin as their active ingredient. These are helpful for mild lice infestations but may be less effective on resistant strains:
- Pros: OTC treatments are easy to find and usually affordable.
- Cons: They may not work on resistant lice strains, and some people can be allergic to the ingredients.
Example of OTC Treatment:
- Product Name: RID Lice Killing Shampoo
- Active Ingredient: Pyrethrin
For more severe infestations, prescription medications, recommended by a health care provider, are needed. Some common medications include:
- Ivermectin: available as an oral medication (Stromectol) or a topical lotion (Sklice)
- Malathion: a lotion applied to the scalp
- Spinosad: an FDA-approved topical cream, also called Natroba
|Ivermectin (Stromectol)||Broad-acting||Oral version not for children under 88lbs|
|Ivermectin (Sklice)||Easy application||May cause skin irritation|
|Malathion||Effective against resistant lice||Strong odor|
|Spinosad (Natroba)||Safe for ages 4+||Expensive|
Lice Treatments for Eyelashes and Eyebrows
Treating lice infestations in the eyelashes and eyebrows may require special measures. Talk to your health care provider before applying any medications to the eye area. They may recommend prescription ointments that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin in these areas.
- Note: Avoid using permethrin lotion near the eyes, as it may cause irritation.
Diagnosis and Professional Consultation
To diagnose a lice infestation, start by looking at the scalp, particularly around and behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Common signs of lice include:
- Small, red bumps on the scalp or neck
- Tiny, oval-shaped lice eggs (nits) attached to the hair shafts
- Adult lice, which are about 2-3 mm long and tan or grayish-white
Using a magnifying lens and a bright light may help in spotting lice and nits. A Wood’s light can also aid in the identification of nits as they appear fluorescent under this light.
Consulting a Pediatrician or Health Care Provider
If you suspect a lice infestation, consult a pediatrician or healthcare provider for a definitive diagnosis. They will closely inspect the hair and scalp and may use tools like a lice comb, which can help remove lice and their eggs.
|Magnifying lens||Makes spotting lice easier||Requires good lighting|
|Wood’s light||Highlights nits effectively||Bulkier equipment|
|Lice comb||Removes lice and their eggs||Requires manual combing|
During the appointment, be sure to ask about natural treatment options and preventive measures to avoid reinfestations. Examples of questions to ask include:
- What natural home remedies are safe and effective for treating lice?
- How can I prevent future lice infestations?
Remember, it’s crucial to consult with a professional to obtain accurate information and ensure the safe and effective treatment of head lice.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Human Louse
Subject: I don’t know what bug it is
May 12, 2015 3:51 am
I see this bug all the time. I’ve found it in my hair, on my towel, and in my shirt. I don’t know what kind of bug it is and I’m worried.
You have Lice.
HOW DO I GET EID OF IT!!!!!!!!
There are over the counter remedies. Check with your pharmacist.
Letter 2 – Human Louse
Subject: Bug in my hair!
Location: Beverly MA
October 17, 2012 8:46 am
Hi, I am a very clean person, but I have found on a few occasions, one of these lurking in my hair. The picture makes it look big but it is only a quarter length of my short fingernail.
Signature: Thank you so much
Oh my goodness thank you but eeeeewew!!! I have a toddler in daycare and a school age child, so I guess it makes sense.. Ohh gross.. The doctors office for us.
Followup: October 22, 2012
The bug was a adult head louse which I checked my kids and my oldest had many. We were all treated . Thank you
We are very pleased to hear that you were able to initiate treatment in a speedy manner thanks to our identification. We have not included your surname in this posting in order to preserve your privacy. Though it might be somewhat awkward, we would also recommend that you get word to other parents at the school and daycare center that your children attend, lest you risk a reinfestation in the future. Perhaps your physician can contact the necessary individuals should you want to maintain anonymity.
Thank you, I called the school, daycare, and parents that had children over my house! You were very helpful and with your help I did receive quick help from my doctor and a 45 minute conversation with the nurse, because I was completely clueless about how to fix this.
Letter 3 – Human Louse
Subject: Unknown bug
Geographic location of the bug: Los Angeles, California
Time: 12:52 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: My son saw this tiny bug on his shoulder and freaked out. We would like to know what it is. It’s about 3mm long. Thank you in advance!
How you want your letter signed: June
You have cause for concern. This is a Human Louse.
Letter 4 – Human Louse
Subject: What’s this!
Geographic location of the bug: Pillow
Time: 10:01 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: My son found a bug on his pillow last night. We killed it. Another was found in middle of night on pillow. We killed it. Another was found on SAME pillow this morning. Is this lice?
How you want your letter signed: Bug-shy
Your suspicions are correct. Your son has Lice.
Letter 5 – Human Louse
Subject: My son found a bug
Location: Monterey, California
December 5, 2012 11:43 am
My son says he keeps finding these bugs in his hair. They aren’t lice, ticks or the like, but we can’t quite tell what it is.
We are hoping you can help.
Signature: Curious Dad
Dear Curious Dad,
This is most definitely a Human Louse and you can verify that identification on BugGuide. We would urge you to get professional treatment for your son and the family members and you should also notify your son’s school.
Letter 6 – Human Louse
Subject: weird bug found in my head
Location: in my head and i live in Alabama
March 2, 2014 7:34 pm
my head has been itching like crazy. every time I wash my hair its like my head itches worse.. one day I was scratching my head and I found this weird bug under my nail after I got through scratching my head. it looked something similar to the bug called louse. but it had this long body with these tentacle looking things as legs. I honestly don’t know what it is. every now and then I will pull one out and some times they will be big and other times they will be really small. I tried to take a picture of it but it wasn’t clear enough to put on here. I would really appreciate it if u could help me find out what kind of bug this is in my head/scalp.
The image you attached was labeled “lice” so we are guessing you downloaded it from the internet. Your letter makes it sound like you have head lice. You should treat the problem. According to the Penn State University Fact Sheet: “Shampoo products containing either prescription or over-the-counter preparations are the standard treatment for head lice. Body lice and crab lice are controlled using lotions which contain an insecticide. Contact your physician or pharmacist to determine which of these products will be most effective.”
Letter 7 – Human Louse
Subject: Mystery bothersome big
April 12, 2014 3:08 pm
I really need help to identify this bug because I thought it was lice but I don’t think so. So I want to know what it is so I can figure out how to get rid of them.
Signature: Really annoyed and concerned
Dear Really annoyed and concerned,
Your initial identification was correct. Sadly, this is a Human Louse.
Letter 8 – Human Louse
Subject: United States
Location: Southeastern GA
April 6, 2015 8:01 pm
I have found a total of 3 of these in the last 72 hours. My husband has checked my head very closely and isn’t finding more, or any nit evidence or any bites (I also have very thin hair). Tonight I came in from being outside awhile and felt something move on the top of my head and found this one so I took some pics. After having seen your website the other night, when researching to see if what I found was lice, I was hoping you could tell me for sure what this is. Every year around this time we start seeing evidence of termites in the area, so was wondering if that could be what this is since we aren’t finding any other evidence of Head lice.
Signature: confused and concerned
Dear confused and concerned,
Your image is quite blurry, but this sure looks like a Human Head Louse to us, and we would recommend that you take action before you spread Lice to friends and family members.
Letter 9 – Human Louse
Subject: clear and brown bug
Geographic location of the bug: bed, hair
Time: 10:47 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: it bit me a lot and they keep coming out of my hair
How you want your letter signed: jenna thibault
This is a Human Louse.