YES! But How? Nit Picking

I don't want to treat my child's head lice with insecticides that may be neurotoxins. Is there a natural way to treat head lice?
Tiffany Ran and Alyssa Johnson photo by Alexandria Abdallah

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Tiffany Ran, right, hopes that her bunny, Gloomy, will be a coverboy for YES! Magazine. She plans a career of cooking, writing, and being stage mom to the most famous bunny in the world. Alyssa B. Johnson, left, is enjoying her first attempt at professional journalism, and hopes to continue doing work that involves making a better world.

Photo by Alexandria Abdallah

There is—thank goodness, since health professionals are seeing head lice that are resistant to commonly used insecticides. There is even a new pill on the market for resistant infestations.

Children in school are more likely than adults to catch head lice, and may need multiple treatments for resistant lice or recurring infestations. Going the natural route is a safe alternative that is recommended by community health professionals and is four times more effective than over-the-counter insecticide treatments.

The natural treatment for head lice requires an understanding of the head louse life cycle. During the mating stage, female lice lay eggs, called nits, that are glued to the base of the hair and require body heat for incubation. Nits hatch into nymphs that become adults in about seven days.
Natural treatments done thoroughly through repeated cycles will eliminate head lice­—without poisons.

• It’s most effective to treat someone who is sitting down, so you can easily reach all around the head. Sitting in the bathtub, or in a chair with a towel around the shoulders is most comfortable.

• Slather wet hair from root to tip with any kind of thick conditioner until every strand is heavily saturated. Conditioner smothers and immobilizes the head lice and makes it easy to comb through the hair.

• Remove conditioner and head lice by combing small sections of hair from root to tip with a lice comb. Inspect the comb as you go along and rinse away any lice caught in it.

• Rinse off any remaining conditioner.

• Combing with conditioner doesn’t kill nits, so repeat every three to four days to catch newly hatched nymphs.

It takes three treatments to end an infestation. Between treatments, do nightly wet or dry brushing or combing. This breaks the lice’s legs and prevents them from feeding, eliminating ones that hatch between conditioner treatments. Remember: “break their legs so they don’t lay eggs.”

Head lice can live for up two days without a blood source. Personal possessions that touch the head like pillowcases, hats, and hair accessories should be washed or kept in a tightly sealed container for longer than two days.

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