Head lice infestations are a common and frustrating issue, especially among school-aged children. These tiny parasites can create an itchy, uncomfortable situation for those affected. Thankfully, there are effective methods for removing lice from hair permanently, allowing both children and adults to return to their daily lives itch-free.
One popular approach to remove lice from hair is using special over-the-counter treatments, which typically come as shampoos or lotions. These products contain chemicals that kill the lice, and their effectiveness can be increased by combining them with manual removal methods. For example, using a nit comb helps eliminate nits (lice eggs) and lice from the hair shaft.
Of course, it is also crucial to prevent reinfestation by disinfecting personal items and surroundings. This may include soaking combs and brushes in hot water and thoroughly cleaning bedding, clothing, and furniture. By diligently following these steps, permanent lice removal can be achieved.
Understanding Lice Infestation
Head lice are small, parasitic insects that infest the human scalp. They feed on human blood and lay their eggs, called nits, near the base of hair shafts. An infestation occurs when these insects multiply and cause itching, discomfort, and sometimes small red bumps on the scalp.
The lice lifecycle consists of three stages: eggs, nymphs, and adult lice. Nits are oval-shaped and usually appear yellow or white. They hatch into nymphs, which are immature lice that require about 9-12 days to become adults. The adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and can live up to 30 days on a person’s head.
Lice cannot hop or fly, so they mainly spread through direct head-to-head contact. Items like brushes, hats, and headphones can also aid in the transmission of lice. It is essential to know that pets like dogs and cats do not play a role in the spread of head lice.
Here are some features of lice infestation:
- Intense itching on the scalp
- Visible nits attached to the hair shafts
- Tiny insects crawling on the scalp or in the hair
- Sores caused by scratching
To treat a head lice infestation, several methods are available, including over-the-counter treatments, prescription medications, and natural remedies. However, each method may have its pros and cons. For example:
- Pros: Cost-effective and easily accessible
- Cons: May not always be effective on certain lice strains, risk of overusing chemicals on the scalp
- Pros: Effective on resistant lice strains, guided by a healthcare professional
- Cons: May be more expensive and could have side effects
- Pros: Less reliance on chemicals, may be more favorable for sensitive skin
- Cons: Not scientifically proven for effectiveness, may require multiple applications
It is essential to follow a treatment plan thoroughly and routinely check the hair for any remaining nits or lice to prevent reinfestation. Combining treatments and hygiene practices may increase the chances of permanently removing lice from hair.
Preventing the Spread of Lice
Head lice can be a nuisance, but there are steps you can take to prevent their spread. To reduce the chance of transmission among family members and close contacts, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid head-to-head contact, as it is the most common way lice are transmitted.
- Do not share personal items like combs, brushes, hats, and headphones.
Here are some strategies to prevent the spread of lice:
- Teach children to avoid head-to-head contact during play and other activities.
- Regularly check your family members’ hair and scalps for signs of lice or nits.
- Keep belongings separate, especially in shared spaces like coat closets and lockers.
It’s also important to be mindful of the environment:
- Clean any items that might have been in contact with the infested person’s hair, such as bedding and clothing, by washing in hot water and drying on high heat.
- Vacuum furniture and floors where the infested person may have been.
- Seal non-washable items in a plastic bag for two weeks to kill any remaining lice.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll significantly reduce the risk of lice spreading among your family and friends.
Manual Removal Techniques
The wet-combing method is a technique that utilizes a lice comb to manually remove lice and nits from wet hair. To perform this method, follow these simple steps:
- Wet the hair and apply conditioner.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to detangle the hair.
- Switch to a fine-toothed nit comb and start combing from the scalp.
- Wipe the comb on a white paper towel to check for lice and nits.
- Repeat this process until no more lice or nits are found.
This method has its pros and cons:
- Pros: Non-toxic, suitable for all hair types, and effective for detecting infestations.
- Cons: Time-consuming and requires diligence.
Fine-Toothed Comb Usage
A fine-toothed comb can be used on dry or wet hair to remove lice and nits. Here’s how you can use this comb:
- Divide the hair into small sections.
- Place the comb close to the scalp and comb through each section.
- Clean the comb as you proceed, and check for lice or nits.
- Keep combing until all sections are done.
Comparison between wet-combing and fine-toothed comb usage:
|Technique||Wet-Combing Method||Fine-Toothed Comb Usage|
|Hair state||Wet||Wet or dry|
|Major tools/materials||Lice comb, conditioner||Fine-Toothed comb|
|Effectiveness||High detection rate||Depends on combing skill|
In conclusion, both the wet-combing method and the use of a fine-toothed comb are effective ways to manually remove lice from hair. The choice of technique depends on personal preference and the user’s combing skill.
Mayonnaise can be a helpful home remedy for lice removal. To use this method, simply:
- Cover the entire scalp and hair with mayonnaise.
- Leave it on for several hours or overnight, covering the head with a shower cap.
- Comb out dead lice and nits using a fine-toothed comb.
- Wash hair thoroughly with regular shampoo.
Applying Coconut and Olive Oils
Coconut and olive oils can help suffocate and kill lice. To apply them:
- Mix equal parts of coconut oil and olive oil.
- Apply the mixture to the hair and scalp, massaging it thoroughly.
- Leave the oil in the hair overnight, then wash it out in the morning.
- Comb through the hair with a fine-toothed comb to remove lice and nits.
Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar Treatments
Vinegar and apple cider vinegar may help remove lice and nits by dissolving the glue that holds nits to the hair shafts. Steps to use these remedies are:
- Mix equal parts of water and vinegar (white or apple cider).
- Apply the diluted vinegar to the hair and scalp, and leave it on for about 30 minutes.
- Rinse the hair thoroughly and comb through it with a nit comb.
Tea Tree Oil and Other Essential Oils
Tea tree oil and other essential oils can be used to treat lice due to their natural insecticidal properties. Here is a list of essential oils that can help:
- Tea tree oil
- Lavender oil
- Neem oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Anise oil
- Peppermint oil
- Nutmeg oil
- Cinnamon leaf oil
To use essential oils for lice removal:
- Mix 20 drops of your chosen essential oil with 2 ounces of carrier oil (like olive or coconut oil).
- Apply the mixture to the scalp and hair, and massage it in well.
- Leave the oil on for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Rinse the hair and comb through it with a nit comb to remove lice and nits.
Please note: Essential oils may cause skin irritation in some individuals. It is important to do a patch test on a small area of skin before applying the oils to the entire scalp.
|Mayonnaise||Easy to find, effective||Can be messy, needs to be left on for hours|
|Coconut and Olive Oils||Natural, moisturizing||May be less effective than other treatments|
|Vinegar Treatments||Low cost, helps remove nits||May not kill all lice, strong odor|
|Essential Oils||Natural, multiple choices||May cause skin irritation in some individuals|
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments
Permethrin and Pyrethrin
- Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid, while pyrethrin is a naturally-occurring insecticide.
- Both are often used in creams, lotions, and shampoos to treat lice.
Permethrin and pyrethrin treatments are popular over-the-counter (OTC) options. They work by paralyzing and killing lice and their eggs (nits).
- Easily accessible
- Generally effective in treating infestations
- May cause skin irritation
- Some lice have developed resistance to these treatments
Ivermectin (Stromectol, Sklice)
- Prescription medication
- Can be used as a topical lotion (Sklice) or oral tablet (Stromectol)
Ivermectin is effective against lice by disrupting their nervous system. It’s available upon prescription in two forms: Sklice (lotion) and Stromectol (tablet).
- Effective against resistant lice
- Tablet form can address severe infestations
- Requires a prescription
- Oral tablet may cause side effects like dizziness, headache, or gastrointestinal discomfort
- Prescription medication
- Lotion applied to dry hair
Malathion is another prescription medication used to treat head lice. It works by killing lice and their eggs through a powerful insecticide action.
- Addresses resistant lice effectively
- Single application can significantly reduce infestations
- Requires a prescription
- May cause skin irritation or minor burns in rare cases
- Prescription medication
- Topical suspension
Spinosad is a prescription-only medication derived from a naturally occurring soil bacterium. It targets both lice and their eggs, providing effective treatment.
- Kills nits and lice
- Helps reduce repeated infestations
- Requires a prescription
- May cause skin irritation or redness
|Permethrin/Pyrethrin||Accessible, Effective||Skin irritation, Resistance|
|Ivermectin||Effective, Addresses resistance||Prescription, Potential side effects|
|Malathion||Fast-acting, Addresses resistance||Prescription, Skin irritation, Possible burns|
|Spinosad||Effective, Kills nits and lice||Prescription, Skin irritation|
Cleaning and Disinfecting the Environment
Washing and Vacuuming
- Regularly vacuum floors, carpets, and furniture where lice may have fallen.
- Mop hard floors with hot, soapy water.
Example: Vacuum the living room carpet every few days to prevent the spread of lice.
- Reduces the chance of lice spreading
- Hepas you maintain a clean environment
- Requires regular effort
Cleaning Personal Items and Bedding
- Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 5-10 minutes to kill lice.
- Seal non-washable items like stuffed toys in a plastic bag for 1-2 weeks to suffocate lice.
- Thorough cleaning of personal items
- Reduces the risk of reinfestation
- May not be effective on all types of items
- Wash clothing, bedding, and linens on a hot water cycle to kill lice and their eggs.
- Use a dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes to ensure lice are eliminated.
|Clothes Treatment||Hot Water Washing||Dryer with Hot Air|
|Time required||30-60 minutes||30 minutes|
- Efficient in removing lice and eggs
- Hot water and air effectively kill lice
- Some items may not be suitable for hot washing
- Requires access to a washer and dryer
Additional Tips and Warnings
Avoid Using Hazardous Substances
While treating head lice, it’s crucial to avoid harmful substances like gasoline, kerosene, and rubbing alcohol. These products pose serious health risks and are not approved by the FDA for head lice treatment. Instead, consider safer alternatives such as:
- Over-the-counter treatments (e.g., permethrin, pyrethrin)
- Prescription treatments (e.g., malathion, ivermectin)
- Home remedies (use with caution) like white vinegar, almond oil, or aniseed oil
When to Seek Medical Advice
It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider if:
- The over-the-counter treatment is ineffective after two applications, with retreatment needed seven to nine days later
- The itching doesn’t subside or worsens, possibly indicating an allergic reaction
- You suspect a body lice infestation (different from head lice)
- Presence of adult louse or live nit is still visible under a Wood’s light examination
Effectiveness of Shaving
Shaving hair may seem like a quick solution, but it’s not necessary. Properly applied treatments are effective in eliminating head lice. Shaving may cause emotional distress or social stigma, particularly among children. Moreover, the CDC does not recommend shaving as a primary treatment.
Pros of shaving:
- Quick removal of lice and nits
- Simpler detection of new infestations
Cons of shaving:
- Emotional distress and social stigma
- Not a long-term solution
- Lice can return if exposed to infestation again
In summary, removing lice from hair permanently involves a few key steps:
Here’s a comparison of two common lice treatment methods:
|Over-the-counter treatments||Easy to find, affordable||May not work for resistant lice strains|
|Prescription treatments||Effective for resistant strains||Requires a doctor’s prescription, may be costly|
Some key features and characteristics of lice treatments include:
- Ease of use
- Duration of the treatment
- Side effects or potential allergic reactions
- Residual effects on the hair and scalp
Ultimately, the effectiveness of a lice treatment relies on proper application and follow-up care. Being patient and thorough in these steps will increase the chances of a successful and permanent removal of lice from hair.
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: Please tell me this isn’t lice …..
Location: Southern New Hampshire
December 16, 2016 9:07 am
My sister found this bug this morning while taking a shower … we’re hoping it’s not lice.
We’re in Southern NH and it’s FRIGID (-20* with the windchill) so we’re not certain where it even came from.
Any help is appreciated!
Signature: Itchy & Hoping
Dear Itchy & Hoping,
This is indeed a Louse.
We were afraid of that!
Letter 2 – Human Louse
Potential Bed Bug?
Location: Wales, United Kingdom
February 23, 2012 8:33 pm
I just found this little bug idly relaxing on my blanket on my bed, and am just wondering what it is exactly. I’m worried it might be a bed bug, as I’m really not able to afford a professional exterminator right now.
Any help would be appreciated, this is driving me crazy.
The good news is that this is not a Bed Bug. The not so good news is that it is another bloodsucker, a Human Louse. You might want to refer to this excellent fact sheet on Human Lice from Penn State.
Letter 3 – Human Louse
February 16, 2016 11:32 am
I found this in my hair and in really kinda scared. I have no idea what it is. I hope it’s not a mite.
This is a Head Louse. There are many over the counter treatments available.
Letter 4 – Human Louse
Subject: What is this??? Lice????
August 9, 2017 8:25 pm
I found this in the bathtub after washing my daughters hair!!?? Please help!! Thank you
You are correct. This is a Louse. You should be able to take care of this with a visit to the pharmacy. There are over the counter remedies, though we understand from some of our readers that you can also use a fine tooth comb to remove them.
Letter 5 – Human Louse
Subject: Please what is this
Location: Corvallis montana
August 10, 2017 7:49 am
Found this in my daughters hair
This is the second image of a Human Head Louse we are posting this morning. You should be able to take care of this with a visit to the pharmacy. There are over the counter remedies, though we understand from some of our readers that you can also use a fine tooth comb to remove them.
Letter 6 – Human Louse
Subject: Curious bug
Geographic location of the bug: Western washington
Time: 09:19 PM EDT
I found this in my bathroom sink after brushing my hair. I’m hoping it wasn’t IN my hair. HELP!!!!! What is it?
How you want your letter signed: Rose M [Ed. Note: surname withheld to avoid stigma]
This looks like a Human Louse, and you should probably check for more.
Letter 7 – Human Louse
Subject: Bug found on pillow
Geographic location of the bug: Albuquerque, NM
Time: 05:35 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I saw this bug crawling on my pillow and thought it to be a bed bug at first, having never seen one before. It doesn’t seem to be one.
It was sort of translucent.
I realize it may be lice, but I haven’t been anywhere near people who might have head or body lice. I don’t have any new bumps or itching out of the ordinary, and checked my mattress for signs of bed bugs. I also checked clothing seams for eggs but there were none.
So is it just a random adult louse? Am I doomed to infection?
How you want your letter signed: Sofia
Though quite degraded, your image does nonetheless resemble a Human Louse. You are not “doomed to infection” as you seem to have discovered this early, and there are many over the counter remedies available.
Thank you very much! I was in denial since I’ve never had to deal with them before. I’ve scheduled an appointment with a clinic to remove them and am washing my stuff/heat treating things.
I likely got them on a train in Vietnam, I was in a sleeper.
Thanks again for your help.
Letter 8 – Human Louse
Subject: What is this
Geographic location of the bug: Ohio
Your letter to the bugman: Found this bug crawling on my leg.Im hoping this is not a bed bug.If u could please tell me I would greatly appreciate it.I have kids so I would like to know before they start to multiply.
How you want your letter signed: Thank you
This is a very detailed image of a Human Louse.