Unfortunately, you’re probably reading this because you’ve found the small, brown bugs called lice in your family and are wondering what to do next. Don’t worry- while lice are a nuisance, they’re relatively easy to get rid of and don’t cause serious medical harm to their hosts unless it’s a very advanced case. In fact, the most common and serious complication with a lice infestation is infection caused by excessive scratching.
So, what are lice and how can you get rid of them for good? Read on to get the quick facts about lice and how to treat your family.
What are lice?
There are over 5,000 species of louse, each effecting a specific host. Humans can be afflicted by 3 different kind of lice: head, body and pubic. This article refers to head lice, which do not spread diseases or cause significant illness in the host, but which are highly contagious via head-to-head contact. They are small parasites which live and breed on a person’s scalp.
Who gets lice?
Anyone can get lice, regardless of their hygiene, but there are some demographics who are more susceptible. School age children get lice most often, though African Americans are much less likely to catch them. 10% of non-black students will get lice, while only 0.5% of black children will.
How did I get lice?
Lice are spread from person to person from close contact. Schools, public pools and gyms are all common places to pick up lice, and after that it can spread very quickly in the home. You cannot get lice from pets, nor can you spread your lice to your pets.
Lice can fall off on towels, bed linens and clothes and be spread that way. They cannot live more than a day or two away from a host, so will be desperate to reattach if they fall off, but unable to function or lay eggs.
How should I treat my family and home?
Treating lice doesn’t require caustic chemicals, but it will require diligence and light cleaning. First, you must examine everyone in your family to determine who has been affected. If there are multiple cases, or if you don’t feel comfortable making the diagnosis, you can have trusted professionals visit your home for a medical evaluation and safe lice treatment options.
Once you know who has lice, you will want to safely treat their scalp and hair while effectively eliminating the lice and their eggs. For all methods, you will need a fine tooth comb, preferably one designed for combing nits and lice.
- Method #1: Apple cider vinegar mixed equally with mineral oil can be applied liberally to the scalp and hair so long as the person is not sensitive to ACV on the skin. The mixture should be applied and left over night in a shower cap, and finally combed out in the morning and washed. Repeat twice a week for three weeks, cleaning linens and towels right after each application.
- Method #2: Lice can hold their breath for up to 8 hours, but suffocation methods are still incredibly effective in eliminating living lice. Using a thick, oily substance (mayo, coconut oil and petroleum jelly are all common choices) to coat the scalp, roots and hair, you will suffocate over 95% of living lice. Their nits will live on, but you will comb the majority out in the morning, after wrapping the treated hair in a shower cap over night. Like the first method, you must repeat this treatment at least once a week for 3 weeks to break their breeding cycle and eliminate lice in your home. Follow each treatment by washing linens, towels and lightly vacuuming your furniture to eliminate any escapees.
Be Diligent and Don’t Give Up!
After every treatment it’s important to clean any areas lice may have spread, but remember they can’t live long without a host so focus most of your energy in destroying the living lice on your family. It may take a few weeks to completely eliminate lice from your home, but the sooner you start the quicker they’ll be gone.