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We all know that lice are not fun and possibly a scary prospect for any parent. As more drug-resistant strains emerge, a little research is needed to find out which natural methods of treating lice actually work.
Especially when preparing for the start of school, a review can help! Here are some effective or less harsh natural methods that really work, based on medical journal research and the experience of parental trenches. I also include some proactive steps to hopefully avoid getting lice in the first place.
Drug resistant head lice?
Just as certain strains of bacteria have mutated in order to survive treatment with common antibiotics, these lice have developed mutations that allow them to survive common treatments. Not only do insecticidal treatments immerse our children in potentially dangerous endocrine disruptors and chemicals that affect the brain, but many are no longer effective!
A 2014 study found that more than 99% of the lice tested had a mutation that allowed them to survive treatments with insecticides permethrin and pyrethrin, the most widely used treatments.
It’s nearly saturated with (these genes), which means that people who use permethrin and pyrethrin-based products will likely have a hard time controlling lice, ”said Kyong Sup Yoon, associate professor of biological sciences and environmental sciences at the University of the Southern Illinois, who led the research for the current study and the 2014 study. (source)
Newer treatments use stronger strains of insecticides that lice are not yet resistant to, but can cost more than $ 100 and often require a prescription.
It is also good to know that these insecticides may contain neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors that can have a long-lasting negative effect on children, especially when used more than once over time.
What is a parent to do?
As a parent, the very idea of lice gives me the creeps. With six children, lice could spread very quickly in our home and it would be very difficult to get rid of them.
In fact, we faced this problem a couple of years ago, and after some research, I was not comfortable using conventional insecticide treatments, especially since our children are still very young.
I tried several of the recommended natural remedies and choking methods online, but none seemed to really stop the problem, especially for a daughter whose hair was too thick to comb completely and which was perfect for hiding lice.
Within a week, we completely eradicated lice from our children and also discovered many natural lice remedies that didn’t work (and some that worked brilliantly.)
The beauty of these treatments is that they act on the lice physically through dehydration or other methods and are not dependent on the insecticides that many lice are resistant to anyway.
I also included a list of the things we have used to prevent more outbreaks from the very beginning, even at times when I know my children were exposed to children with lice.
Natural ways to combat drug-resistant head lice
The study found that drug-resistant lice were resistant to insecticides. Anyway, I was not comfortable with using insecticides, so the methods that I found and tried on our children were not dependent on them in the first place. I read the full text of the study and confirmed that these natural remedies (working through dehydration and physical means) would continue to work in mutated forms of lice.
The other advantage of these natural remedies is that I did not have to comb my children’s hair at all because the treatment is not based on removing lice and nits.
For our boys, we shaved their heads as it was hot anyway, but our three girls presented a great challenge: three heads of thick, wavy hair that ranged from a little above the shoulders to almost the waist.
Our girls are also the cutest little girls I have ever met, so removing nits was going to be a difficult or impossible option for us, although it has been found to be effective in removing lice when used consistently. I also found out while researching that lice don’t lay eggs for at least ten days after they hatch, so as long as some kind of effective natural lice remedy is used every 6-7 days for some life cycles, spiky hair it is not. necessary.
These are the methods that worked for us, in order of effectiveness:
Saline-based lice spray
The most effective remedy we used that did not require any chemicals or the use of a lice comb was a saline-based lice spray. The salt spray dehydrates and kills lice and nits on contact, but is not harmful to a child. Although it contains an additional fragrance that I would normally avoid, this option is still much, much more natural than other options, and it took so much of a headache out of the lice removal process that I was willing to use it even with the fragrance.
This spray was also very easy to use. I just sprayed my hair before bed, let it stay overnight and shampooed their hair in the morning. It didn’t sting, didn’t smell horrible like bug-based remedies, and (surprisingly) it also left a lot of body in her hair for about a week (probably due to the salt, which I use on my own hair). beach waves spray for volume).
This spray also comes with a lice comb, which I used as much as I could once on each child’s hair, but even without constant combing, our lice were gone in a week without the need for insecticides.
The other advantage of this spray is that it can be used after exposure to other children with lice, so if I know that my children have been exposed, I spray their hair at night and let them sleep with the spray inside to avoid a outbreak.
TO 2012 study found that neem oil was also effective in killing lice when used externally in a shampoo. Since the saline-based lice spray had to be washed off every morning, I used a neem-based shampoo to make sure that no lice had survived the treatment. (I used this brand and I really liked it.)
This shampoo is drying out so I followed up with a natural conditioner on the girls so their hair wasn’t too dry or tangled to brush on. I found that she could also use the lice comb on her hair while it was wet and had conditioner on it, so this was the closest we got to combing them all the way through.
We continued to use this shampoo until we learned that the places where they had been exposed to lice had completely eliminated the problem, and now I add a few drops of neem oil to your regular shampoo to help prevent future breakouts.
Important note: Neem oil should never be used internally, especially by women, children, or anyone without the express supervision of a physician. It can have negative effects if used internally, but is generally considered safe for external use. Consult with a doctor before using this or any product, if you are pregnant or in children.
I also alternated these treatments with the use of diatomaceous earth (DE). I have used DE before for fleas and other pests and found some evidence that it might help kill lice as well. The tiny DE particles have sharp microscopic sides that scrape off the lice exoskeleton and lead to dehydration. This is another chemical-free way to help kill lice or other pests.
Caution: ED can cause irritation if inhaled. Be careful to apply it in a way that it does not create dust that your child can inhale. I did this by having them covered their face with a mask and towel (and doing this myself), and then carefully spraying DE all over the scalp. We then applied a shower cap and let them watch a movie while the DE did his job before washing up.
I also used DE in our home treatment to prevent future breakouts (see below for the steps I took).
Other important steps to combat a lice infestation
Since lice can survive for a short time on bedding, clothing, or carpet, treating the home for lice is also important. Here are the steps we take to avoid another infestation:
- I started by spraying and saturating all of the children’s hair with the saline lice spray and letting it dry. This was in the afternoon so we left the spray on overnight while they slept.
- Then I boarded the house. I started by removing all the beds, pillows, and removing all the clothes that they had worn during the last 72 hours from their rooms. I washed all of these in hot water and ran the hottest cycle in the dryer. Even just 20 minutes in the hottest environment in a dryer is supposed to kill any lice that live on clothing or bedding. I also ran her pillows and stuffed animals through the dryer for 20 minutes. Stuffed animals, cloth toys, or furniture that was too large to wash were placed in a black garbage bag and placed in the attic (it was hot this time of year) for 2 weeks. This might have been an exaggeration, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
- I sprinkled diatomaceous earth all over the rugs, let it sit for 15 minutes, and vacuumed everything … twice.
- Next, I grabbed all the brushes / combs and ran the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher. Hair ties, headbands and other hair accessories were stored in airtight bags for several weeks.
- I also parked our family’s car in the blazing sun for several hours to kill any surviving lice in the car.
Avoid future lice infestations
We have not had any lice infestation since that initial time, despite exposure multiple times. To avoid having another outbreak, I have used this lice-free spray in our children every time I know that we have been potentially exposed. We also use Neem shampoo about once a month, especially this time of year, just to be safe.
But (try) to remember, it’s not the end of the world …
If your child comes home with lice at some point, don’t panic! I know it can be embarrassing, frustrating, and exhausting dealing with head lice, but head lice are not dangerous or deadly … just annoying!
Even with these drug resistant mutant lice, there are natural options that work! In my opinion, they even work better than harmful conventional insecticide-based options.
While I hope we never need these head lice remedies again, it gives me peace of mind to be prepared and have a plan in advance.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Michelle Sands, North Dakota. She is dual certified in Integrative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine and is also a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and competitive endurance athlete. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you speak with your doctor.
Has your family ever faced head lice? What did you do that worked?
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