Because of a recent discussion on a yahoo group that I’m a member of, I decided to add a section here about how to avoid and treat head lice. I’ve never had lice myself, so I cannot promise that these treatments will work. But I would like to provide tried-and-true methods that others have submitted. I also want to share why so many (myself included) would never think of using the common pesticide shampoos.
Inexpensive Natural/Non-toxic Treatments
~ Essential oils can kill lice. The 4 most common oils are lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and pine. All of these oils have different safety warnings, so do your research for safety issues. You should use no more than 3% essential oil to 97% carrier oil. Also, clean the living area with these essential oils in a borax solution (1 part borax to 4 parts water).
~ Douse the hair with olive oil (get the cheap stuff, big bottles). Put a plastic bag over the hair area and leave it on for 20 minutes. Remove the plastic and comb out the nits and oil infused adults. The nits will slide off easily from the hair shaft because it is so oily. Then wash it out.
~ To eliminate head lice and nits, shower and clean with herbal soaps such as tea tree oil shampoo. Then rinse with full strength vinegar, natural apple cider vinegar is best.
~ Squirt a few good handfuls of cheap dollar store conditioner (any brand, the cheaper the better) onto the head and massage it all through the hair. Then comb it through and leave it for about 20 minutes. Comb the entire head with a nit comb. One pull through, all the way to the end, and rinse the comb under running water. Another pull through, and rinse… repeat until the whole head has been combed and there are no signs of lice on the comb. Rinse the conditioner out and shampoo and condition as usual. Do this every 2-3 days for 2 weeks just to be sure none return until the outbreak is under control. If you rub a handful of conditioner into the hair and leave it on to dry, it will stop the lice from attaching to the hair.
(This woman has 2 young daughters with very long hair and has had to deal with lice from public school for years. She says, "An emergency room doctor told me about it one year and I tried it and have never used anything else since." Her older son once lost a palm-sized amount of hair from a chemical lice treatment)
~ The idea is to suffocate the lice, for example, with all the oils/conditioners mentioned. However, the nits do not suffocate. This is why it’s necessary to do more than one application. You need to kill all the bugs as they hatch before they have a chance to lay more eggs.
~ Lice can live only for a certain amount of time without food (8 hours, but I say 12 just to be safe), so boiling sheets and quilts is not necessary. Wash like usual and hang them in the sun to dry. Also put the pillows out on top of the clothes line in the sun, and turn after a few hours to get the other side.
~ Use a tea tree oil shampoo, available under several brands at health food stores and more and more mainline retailers. There is also a website www.melaleuca.com. Parents need to know about this non-toxic solution. Not only do the synthetic pesticide products allow neurotoxins to soak into the children’s skin and into their blood streams, they don’t work to control the pests as well as the tea tree oil products. (Tea tree oil is an extract from a tropical tree and is used in many skin care, health, and hygiene products.)
~ Lice-B-Gone is an excellent alternative pesticide-free treatment available in most stores. It works "like salt on a slug."
~ Fairy Tales specializes in all natural, organic hair care products for children. Their Lice Good-bye and Rosemary Repel products are pesticide-free and clinically proven to be safe and effective.
Why not to use the popular pesticide lice shampoos:
"Sometimes the medicine is worse than the disease. It is unfortunate that well intentioned parents treating their children with toxic or flammable substances have caused deaths and poisonings." –Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health
"Panicked parents who would not normally expose their children to potentially hazardous materials will apply pesticides in haste, sometimes well beyond the recommended frequency and dosages." –Common Sense Quarterly Report (BIRC), Fall 1998
"Preparations like Rid and Kwell…are definitely toxic to people." –Dr. Andrew Weil, MD
Why Children Are So Susceptible
The scalp has many blood vessels that are close to the skin, making it easy for toxic substances to be absorbed directly into the blood stream. To make matters worse, children have a less mature immune system to protect them and other enzyme systems to detoxify these chemicals.
People with asthma can have very severe reactions to pesticides. They can have problems at low levels of exposure that have no apparent effect on people without these conditions, especially children.
Pesticide exposure can aggravate existing health conditions. Anyone who is already ill, has chronic disease, or is taking daily medication can be more at risk.
People with open cuts, scratches, or head and neck inflammation are especially at risk because absorption of the pesticides is greater through broken skin.
Pesticides are a potential cause of chronic health effects. This can be from past exposure or continuing low-level exposures and long-term health effects can occur months or years after exposure.
Pesticides Being Used
Absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. Once absorbed, it can be carried throughout the body to the tissue (mainly fat) and organs. In pregnant women, it can travel across the placenta to the developing fetus. Due to its toxicity and lack of effectiveness, it should not be used under any circumstance.
Marion Moses, MD, says "Lindane should be banned; it should not be allowed for any use whatsoever." She says that children treated with lindane for head lice were almost five times more likely to have brain cancer, brain and nervous system damage has resulted in deaths in infants and children after lindane application to the skin, and it can cause irritant and allergic reactions with the following symptoms: convulsions, seizures, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incoordination, tremors, mental confusion, and jerky muscular movements.
Doris Rapp, MD, states that some women who have elevated levels of lindane from lice treatments in their blood have habitual abortions, unexplained infertility, menstrual disorders, and premature menopausal symptoms.
The National Pediculoses Association, Inc. says that "Lindane is a nerve poison that also causes cancer…so why are we prescribing it for our children?" Their databases has over 500 adverse event reports related to the use of lindane. Even worse, they say it can be unsafe even when used as directed.
These are pesticides made from flowers. Synthetic pyrethroids are chemical imitations of these natural products. Products made from a member in this family of pesticides are likely to precipitate allergic reactions, particularly for people with allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities. One reason is that they are cross-react with ragweed and other plant pollens.
Marion Moses, MD, suggests that these types of pesticides attack the brain and nervous system. She further states that they can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and cause skin itching, burning, rashes, stinging, tingling, and numbness.
Lice is growing/has grown immune to the common treatments!
"Evidence indicates that the most widely used treatments for head lice (pesticide based shampoo) may be losing their effectiveness." –USA Today 4/29/97
In a Harvard study, lice collected from Cambridge, Mass., Boise, Idaho, and the Philippines were placed on permethrin-soaked paper. The lice gathered from the Philippines (where such shampoos are not used) all died quickly. By contrast, the lice gathered from the US did not. Because of the resistance and product failure, some physicians have overreacted by prescribing repeated use of products, stronger formulas, or longer application times. History indicates that lice eventually grow resistant to every effective insecticidal treatment used against them.
When one pesticide fails to remain effective, another is put into use without knowing the potential long-term health consequences.
If you have any additional information or suggestions, please contact me.