There are over 6 million lice infestations each year in the United States. This year in Northern Michigan it’s nearly an epidemic. The schools around the area have been battling it since the school year started and, unfortunately, that means many families are too.
Luckily there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family naturally and without harmful pesticides.
Prevention: If you hear that lice has been detected in your child’s school or if you work in a close environment, such as a nursing home, there are natural ways to protect yourself against an infestation.
- Tea Tree Oil: Fill a small spray bottle with distilled water. Add 10 – 30 drops (depending on the size of the bottle) of Tea Tree oil to the bottle. Every morning before you send your child to school or head to work spray hair with the water/oil mix. Also spray behind the ears and along the neckline as lice are attracted to those areas of the head because of the warmth. Shake the bottle well before each use. (I use a 4 oz amber glass sprayer filled with the distilled water and 10 drops of oil)
- Other Oils: Keep other oils on hand if needed. While Tea Tree is the most effective against deterring and killing lice there are other oils that work too. I have one daughter that cannot stand the smell the Tea Tree oil. For her I will occasionally give her a reprieve and use one of the following instead: Lavender, Rosemary, Geranium or Peppermint.
- Shampoo/Conditioner: Use a shampoo that contains one or more of the essential oils listed above. For example, Avalon Organics makes a wonderful peppermint shampoo and conditioner. This is what we use in our house. You can also buy a fragrance-free shampoo and add 10 – 20 drops of essential oil to the bottle and shake well.
- Get the comb. A must have is a special lice comb. Be sure to get one with metal teeth, not plastic. Not only will the metal hold up better but it also does a better job of combing out the lice, nymphs and nits should any appear.
Treatment: If you end up finding lice on yourself or on your child, first and foremost, don’t panic. It happens and it can be dealt with. There are many over-the-counter products that can be used but many contain pesticides that can be dangerous for you and your family. You don’t need pesticides to treat a lice infestation. It can be treated just as well naturally. In addition, we are now seeing lice that are becoming pesticide-resistant because of the overuse of some of these products.
- Olive Oil and Tea Tree: Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil and 15 – 20 drops Tea Tree oil. Starting with a dry head of hair and one small section of hair at a time, beginning at the root, start applying the olive oil. Use a lice comb to brush through the hair. Make sure the olive oil mixture covers all the hair, from root to tip. Keep working in sections until the whole head and all hair is covered. Look for lice, nymphs and nits as you go. Be sure and wipe them free of the comb as you find them. Tie hair up (if long) and put on a shower cap or wrap head in plastic wrap. Let the oil sit for at least two hours or overnight. After at least two hours, shampoo and condition using a shampoo like what is listed above. Comb through hair again with the lice comb.
- Laundry: Wash all bed linens, clothes, hats, scarves, coats and towels in hot water that have been used or worn by the infested person. Run through a high-heat dry cycle in the dryer.
- Vacuum: Vacuum all the carpets, couches, pillows, car seats and anything else that cannot be washed. It is not necessary to use an insecticidal spray. Vacuuming is sufficient. If you’d feel better using a spray, see #5.
- Homeopathy: There are Homeopathic remedies that can help support the above lice treatments. Staphysagria is the main remedy for lice. Using a low potency (6C, 12C or 30C), take the remedy 3 times a day for 7 days. Nux Vomica is another remedy I’ve seen used with success in those with lice and it can be taken the same as Staphysagria. The most important thing to remember with Homeopathy is to match the remedy with the person. Lice is a parasite and parasites tend to move toward the weaker immune systems. Pick a remedy that will constitutionally strengthen the immune system for the person infected. Consult a professional Homeopath if you need assistance in doing this.
- Tea Tree Spray: Using the distilled water and essential oil spray listed above, spray hair every morning before heading out for the day and every evening before bed to help prevent reinfestation and to kill any lice that may have been missed during the olive oil treatment. I also use this spray on car seats, couches and pillows. Since lice and nymphs can only live off of a human host for 24-48 hours I don’t know that it does much for the lice problem but it certainly makes everything smell fresh and is definitely better than using an insecticidal spray.
- Olive Oil and Tea Tree again: Lice eggs or nits, hatch within 7 – 10 days and are the easiest things to miss when combing through the hair. Because of this, it is important to repeat the olive oil and tea tree treatment after 7 – 10 days.
- Comb, Comb, Comb: Hair should be combed, using the lice comb, every day. My daughter came home with lice about 2 months ago and even though we stopped the infestation in its tracts, using the above methods, I still comb through her hair every day after school. When it comes to lice, you can never be too careful and the combing just takes a few minutes.
The above protocol has proven very effective for my family and for others I have consulted. While lice is no fun, it is manageable and can be taken care of quickly and naturally!