Head lice are every parent's worst nightmare. Commercial treatments are harsh, and you may want to avoid exposing your child to pesticides and chemicals. Affordable and safe natural alternatives are not only available, but may already be on the shelves of your pantry. Use olive oil and classic white vinegar to treat and eliminate head lice without irritating your child's delicate scalp, exposing him to insecticides or damaging her hair.
You may learn that your child has head lice from his school or daycare, or you may spot the symptoms yourself. Symptoms of head lice include extreme itching, a tickling sensation, and dandruff-like white nits that don't brush off the shaft of the hair. You may also see the actual adult lice, approximately the size of a sesame seed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adult lice may be white, gray, or brown, according to WebMD. Treating lice actively and aggressively as soon as possible is key to eliminating these pesky intruders.
Olive oil and vinegar can be used to treat head lice, along with a nit comb to remove nits, or lice eggs, from the shaft of each strand of hair. Oil treatments, like olive oil, work by suffocating the head lice. Vinegar will not kill lice or nits, but can loosen the nits from the hair shaft, making it easier to comb them away, according to the Mayo Clinic. The two treatments can be combined to treat and eliminate lice.
Coat the head liberally with olive oil, soaking both the scalp and the hair. Work the oil into the hair and scalp with your hands, then wrap the entire head with plastic wrap or cover in a shower cap. Use a hair dryer to warm the hair for a few minutes, then allow the oil to sit on the hair and scalp for 2 hours, suggests eMedTV.com. Wash out well with shampoo, then use a nit comb to remove the nits from the shaft of the hair.
Vinegar may be used after shampooing, but should not be used after an insecticidal shampoo or treatment like Nix as it will deactivate these treatments, according to eMedTV.com. Rinse the hair with vinegar before combing out nits, or to make this treatment more effective, allow the vinegar to sit on the hair for a few minutes before combing, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While these home remedies are popular, studies have not shown olive oil and other suffocation methods to be effective, according to WebMD. Lice can live in olive oil or mayonnaise, even overnight, reports the University of Nebraska. Olive oil and vinegar treatments are, however, quite safe and pose no risk to your child, according to AsktheExterminator.com.
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With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.