There's a lot of debate about whether or not home remedies can actually get rid of lice. What we do know is that lice have been around for a long time, whereas medicated shampoos haven't. So that means before commercial treatments, people either lived with the parasites or they found other ways to get rid of them. Many of the medicated treatments used today are effective, but they also contain pesticides, and misuse could lead to some serious side effects. For this reason alone, some people shy away from these treatment options.
If you want to try a pesticide-free home remedy, there are a few that have withstood the test of time. White vinegar is perhaps the most popular. The important thing to keep in mind is that this treatment won't kill lice or nits. It simply loosens lice eggs from hair shafts and allows them to be easily removed. All you have to do is soak your hair in white vinegar, wrap your head in a towel that's also been soaked in white vinegar, leave it on for about an hour, and then have someone pick the nits out of your hair.
Oil-based treatments are another option. Some people recommend covering your head in mayonnaise or olive oil and then covering it with a shower cap or plastic wrap. If you try this out, blow-dry your hair with the plastic covering still on. The heat may be enough to kill the lice. Leave the covering on for about two hours, and then use a special nit-removing comb to get rid of all the nits in your hair. When you're done, shampoo your hair and comb it again with the special comb. Vaseline can be used instead of mayonnaise or olive oil, but it's a lot harder to get out of your hair, so be careful.
While these home remedies might help get rid of nits, none of them have ever been proven effective at eliminating lice completely. The only other natural treatment is shaving off all of your hair. This isn't an option for everyone, but for those who are willing to go bald for a few weeks, it can actually work. Just make sure you dispose of the infested hair properly in a sealed plastic bag [source: WebMD].
If you still have questions about head lice, see the links below for lots more information.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Head Lice: Prevention & Control." May 16, 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.cdc.gov/lice/head/prevent.html
- Family Doctor. "Head Lice -- What They Are and How to Eliminate Them." Nov. 2006. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/skin/skin/865.printerview.html
- Gavin, Mary. "Infections: Head Lice." Kid's Health. Sept. 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/common/lice.html#
- Mayo Clinic. "Head Lice: Symptoms." June 6, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/head-lice/DS00953/DSECTION=symptoms
- Mayo Clinic. "Head Lice: Treatments and drugs." June 6, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/head-lice/DS00953/DSECTION=treatments%2Dand%2Ddrugs
- Perlstein, David. "Head Lice Infestation (Pediculosis)." Medicine Net. Dec. 14, 2007. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.medicinenet.com/head_lice/article.htm
- Pollack, Richard. "Head Lice Information." Harvard School of Public Health. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/headlice.html#what
- PR Web. "September is National Head Lice Prevention Month." Sept. 2, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/09/prweb2815184.htm
- Schoenstadt, Arthur. "Home Remedy for Head Lice." eMed TV. Sept. 17, 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://kids.emedtv.com/head-lice/home-remedy-for-head-lice.html
- The National Pediculosis Association, Inc. "Frequently Asked Questions: Do pets get head lice?" Headlice.org. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.headlice.org/faq/questions.htm
- University of Maine. "Head Lice." Pest Management Office. July 22, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://pmo.umext.maine.edu/factsht/headlice.htm
- WebMD. "Lice -- Other Treatment." Nov. 24, 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://children.webmd.com/tc/lice-other-treatment