Natural treatments for head lice

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This is the time of year when our kiddies go back to school, an event which runs the risk that they may come home with unwanted guests in the form of head lice. Conventional treatment for these little critters are based on chemicals such as lindane, malathion and permethrin. Unfortunately, studies have found that head lice are quite commonly resistant to one or more of these agents. Also, while such substances may be generally regarded as safe, there is nonetheless some concern in the scientific community that they have potentially toxic effects that may pose health risks for kids. With all this in mind, it occurred to me that parents of children with head lice might be interested to know of alternative methods of getting to the root of this problem.

Head lice are parasitic organisms that can live in human hair, subsisting on blood sucked from the scalp every few hours. Once contracted, head lice can be difficult to shift. Part of the reason for this is that they multiply quickly – a female louse lays about five or six eggs a day. Also, lice have tiny claws which they use to hang onto the shaft of the hair for grim death. Despite their tenacious tendencies, however, lice can sometimes be eradicated by literally going through the hair with a fine toothed comb.

To remove lice using this technique, washed, wet hair should be first of all be combed with an ordinary comb to remove knots and tangles. After this, conditioner should be applied to the hair to ease further combing, this time with a comb specifically designed for lice removal. The hair should be thoroughly combed from the scalp to the hair ends, and any lice so discovered should be rinsed down the sink. Repeating this treatment, often referred to as ‘wet-combing’, every three or four days will give you a decent chance of finding lice that have hatched since the last combing session. If no lice are discovered on two consecutive trawls, then the chances are your child’s head is free of lice.

While wet combing seems to work for a good percentage of cases, it is by no means universally effective. To up the chances of ensuring a clear head, I also tend to recommend natural alternatives to the chemicals traditionally recommended for this condition. One such substance is tea tree (Maleleuca alternifolia) oil. One laboratory study found that tea tree oil has biochemical properties that would be expected to translate to bug-busting action, and my experience with using this oil in practice does bear this out. I suggest putting about 20 – 30 drops of tea tree oil into about a pint of warm water, and to use this as a final rinse for the hair after wet-combing and after regular washing each day.

Another natural remedy that I have had success with in practice goes by the name of Biz Niz. This product contains a range of plant oils which have traditionally be used for the killing of head lice including rosemary and eucalyptus. Biz Niz comes in shampoo and conditioner forms, and should be used as directed on the packaging. Phone 01273 558112 to obtain this product by mail order or for details of stockists. My experience is that this and other natural treatments are often effective in getting to the nitty gritty of a head lice problem.

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