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Get Rid of Lice ... Without Chemicals!

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School is in session again, and with it comes new teachers, new friends, and the close contact that spreads happiness and cheer -- and other things that are not as nice.

combing a childs head for lice

Michele Ashamalla: In our school, a pink slip goes home if head lice has been found in a classroom. Some years, I see maybe one or two slips all year from all three of my kids' classes, but sometimes we are not so lucky. Parents magazine has an article this month on combating head lice, and since my children have brought the pesky critters home on more than one occasion, I was curious to read it. The author dealt with the problem by treating her children with heavier and heavier doses of chemicals, and ultimately calling in professionals who really made her pay. We have had lice in the home several times in the last ten years. Each time, it spread to at least one other family member. The only one of us who hasn't had it is my husband. (He jokes that no sensible bug would leave a head of hair like mine or my kids for his ...)

I have gotten rid of them each time without chemicals or professional intervention, and this is how:

First, don't wait or you may have more heads to treat. If you see something move in your child's hair, they've got it. If they are having trouble sleeping because their head itches, they've got it. If you see a lot of scratching during the day, over a period of a couple days, they probably have it. If you get a call after a sleepover that one of the other kids has it, they probably have it too.

Go to the drugstore and get a chemical-free lice treatment. I use Licefreee from Rite-Aid. (I don't know why there are three Es, maybe it's extra good ...) It comes with a metal comb, which you absolutely need -- the plastic ones are useless. Follow the instructions and do a treatment. If you find anything, treat the rest of the family, unless someone is totally bald. Wash the bedding of all infected persons and any bedding they may have been rolling around on in hot water and dry it on high for a long time. My dryer has a "sanitize" setting, which is about an hour. Do the same with clothes in the laundry bins. Vacuum. Wash and sanitize any hair accessories that can be washed. Bag up the rest. Put combs and brushes in boiling water and soak for at least ten minutes. Put sheets or paper towels over headrests in the car, dining room chairs, and couches if any are upholstered with cloth and not leather. Bag up stuffed animals that might have been slept with or cuddled. Lice can only live a short time off of a head, but in that short time it could lay an egg (nit) that might hatch and get on a head and you'd have to start all over again. The chances are slim, but why risk it? Make sure your kids know that it's no big deal and nothing to be embarrassed about. After all, they got it from someone else. You don't need to advertise it, but you do need to be responsible and contact the school and anyone with whom you've had close contact.

Now the real work ... comb through hair every day using the metal comb and a heavy conditioner. I have a lot of thick hair in my family, so I wet the hair, put on the conditioner, and brush through to get out the tangles. I section the hair using clips, then comb through a tiny bit at a time. After each stroke, I wipe the comb on a white tissue or paper towel. I keep a log of what I find, and it is gratifying to see the number go down each day. Seal up the tissues in a Ziploc bag for disposal and soak all implements in boiling water for ten minutes. I also do the non-infected heads every two or three days, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. Do the Licefreee treatment again when recommended (I believe 10-14 days later). I use a few drops of eucalyptus oil for prevention, in case it's still hanging around school. I do another conditioner comb-through the next week, just for my own peace of mind, and then I breathe a sigh of relief.



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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ambar October 2, 2009, 5:14 PM

A few years ago we had a bad run with lice at our house. Ultimately we ended up figuring out we didn’t even need the lice shampoo! After a lot of research we picked up a great tip. Use coca cola soak it took a 2 liter for my daughters hair, then comb threw with conditioner like you stated. The trick behind the coca cola is simple it dissolves the “glue” the lice use to attach their eggs, everything else can be combed out. When a friends daughter came home with them, we shared the technique and it worked perfectly! We tell people abotu it all the time, lice is bothersome but fortunately not something we fear in this house anymore!

Recession Mama October 3, 2009, 4:44 PM

What a great tip! Isn’t it scary what Coke can do?

Melissa  August 4, 2010, 8:41 AM

I have used the coca cola method also, I put the kids in the tub and pour an entire 2 liter in their hair. It’s amazing the lice literally fall out of their heads into the tub. Then I let the hair soak in coca cola and comb through with a lice comb to remove the knits.

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Clare Eilers March 5, 2011, 6:19 AM

Exceptionally useful information. I am super lucky that I encountered this web site by accident. Just book-marked it ^^


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