Head lice, these blood-sucking insects, are any parent’s nightmare. This is no wonder since most often it is the kids from 3 to 12 years who suffer from them the most. Adults shouldn’t relax either, though as these insects can crawl on their heads too and there they can breed and start such a mess that you’ll have to spend several weeks on removing the lice. Here you'll know how to kill head lice: 10 rules of effective lice treatment, a 5-Step Strategy for treating head lice and nits, a review of the best lice shampoos and combs, and how to kill lice on clothes, hats, bed sheets and pillows.
We have prepared a very detailed and complete guide to treating lice. They are malicious, so please do read the entire article as every step and every detail is crucial when it comes to eliminating lice. In order to provide you with authentic information, we have consulted a friend of ours (who is an MD) and have studied the opinions of scientists and doctors. Let’s point out the main ideas first.
Table of Contents:
- 10 Rules of Effective Lice Treatment
- A 5-Step Strategy for Lice Treatment
- Lice Treatment Strategy for Children Under 3
- Head Lice Treatment with Pediculicides
- The Best Lice Combs
- How to Kill Lice on Clothes, Hats, Bed Sheets and Pillows
You should know that eliminating lice and nits (their eggs) are two tasks of different complexity. Lice are vulnerable while the eggs are protected from any external effects. Permethrin, for example, which is a renowned and proven insecticide, kills the lice. A nit, however, can even survive being immersed in a permethrin solution.
- Mechanical combing
- Using products with ovicidal action. However, they can cause allergy and skin irritation and thus are not recommended for use for toddlers under 3 years.
A clever lice prevention strategy is the best way to save money and effort spent on eliminating these pests. If you encounter them nevertheless, don’t be devastated. We’ll give a detailed description of the 5-step Guide to treating lice and nits.
There is only one way to solve all these problems, and that is a clever and gradual elimination of lice. There are different ways to kill them, but some of the recommendations given are common for all of the pediculosis victims. Here’s what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise to them:
- Use pediculicides in accordance with the manuals only, never overdose them.
- Remember to boil your combs and brushes which are used in the treatment process.
- Long-haired patients are to be specially consulted with regards to the dosage and measures of the products used.
- Make sure you follow the time span between applying and rinsing liquid hair pediculicides.
- Combine insecticide, medicine, and combing
- Try using only combs when treating children.
- Treat a patient’s personal belongings (such as clothes and bed sheets) as well: wash them in hot water or pack into a plastic bag for a couple of weeks.
- Check for live or dead lice even 2-3 weeks after apparent healing.
- Consult a doctor for new treatment methods if the current ones don’t result in anything after 2-3 attempts.
- Usually, the doctors don’t mind using traditional methods, such applying Listerine products for lice or spraying essential oils. Their effectiveness, however, is not proven yet. Nevertheless, it is these organic products that our ancestors used back in the times when no pharmaceutical giants existed.
So, how to get rid of nits and lice? Scientists can’t come to a consensus when it comes to choosing the best way to treat head lice. Some of them recommend immediate application of lice medicine, which also called pediculicide, while others believe that mechanical removal is the preferred way to detect and treat head lice because it is effective, does not contribute to insecticide resistance in head lice and also presents a lower risk of skin irritation.
It is up to you to decide whether to use pediculicides or not, and we’ll outline 5 most important steps when eliminating lice for you. The removal strategy will not be the same for adults and kids.
Let’s first take a look at adult head lice removal process.
- Use an artificial chemical product (permethrin-, benzyl benzoate – based products or other sprays, ointments or shampoos. Such items are contraindicated for pregnant women and children.
- NB! Homeopathy won’t help, you’ll only waste money.
- Comb your hair. Nits are chemical-resistant so they can only be removed through combing. In order to facilitate the process, you can use any hair conditioner or oil.
- Repeat the procedure of using a chemical-based product and combing the hair at first after a week, then after a fortnight.
- Disinfect your bed sheets and underwear by all means.
- Make sure no family members are also infected, or else you’ll have to repeat it all over again.
Shaving a child will be most effective. If this is not possible, the only safe strategy is to wash the hair meticulously with hot water (the lice are sensitive to high temperatures) and then you should comb. In order to facilitate the gliding add some hair conditioner or oil (for example, olive or tea tree oil for lice) in order to facilitate gliding. The process will take a long time, 2-3 weeks at least.
It is also important to disinfect clothes, bed sheets, and stuffed toys fully. Use tea tree oil if there are any scratches or small wounds on your kid’s skin as this oil will both disinfect them and facilitate the itching. If a kid has deep scratches or obvious allergies, make sure you consult a doctor.
NEVER use methylated spirits or kerosene on your child’s head!
Don’t be astonished that we’ve only picked two best products. Surprisingly, among the many lice control products found on Amazon.com there are only two worthy and proven options that are approved by both doctors and the FDA and that really work. They are NIX and RID. Therefore, we will tell you about them. Let us warn you that there is one product that is very popular, but is homeopathic. As we have mentioned above, according to the scientists, homeopathy does not work against lice.
NIX Permethrin Lice Treatment Family Pack 2x2 ounce bottles
This Nix set for ~$18.39 contains a special permetrin 1%-based cream rinse. This pediculicide is also approved by the FDA for the treatment of head lice hence the Nix products are recommended even by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, permethrin is considered to be gentler than pyrethrin that is why you can use a permethrin cream rinse even for treatment of children from 2 months of age and older. For convenience the set contains not only the 2 pediculicide bottles but also 2 nit combs which are especially important if you want to simultaneously treat two patients. Conveniently, all of this can be bought for only ~$18.39 Check the current price
NB: the manufacturer claims that Nix products will kill both adult lice and eggs. We’ve already explained that nits cannot be killed with pediculicides, they can only be combed – hence the comb supplied. Don’t blindly rely on a single product. Lice treatment must consist of two parts: cream rinse head treatment and combing!
RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit
One of truly effective products which can be used for kids over 2 years old is the RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit for ~$14.79 manufactured by the world famous pharmaceutical giant Bayer. It is made in the USA. Its active ingredient, Pyrethrins (naturally occurring pyrethroid extracts from the chrysanthemum flower) was approved by the FDA.
This is a kit containing 4 items aimed to removt the lice. The system is complex.
Step 1 is lice killing shampoo treatment (the active ingredient is Pyrethrum extract);
Step 2 is using gel which is to be applied when combing for facilitating the process;
Step 3 is using the home lice control spray (its active ingredient is 0.5% Permethrin).
The manufacturer, in this way, first suggests that you wash your kid’s hair with a special pediculicidal shampoo; then use the gel for combing the lice and nits out of their hair. Since the parasites attack not only humans but also their accommodation, the kit also contains spray for treating the furniture, mattresses, pillows and other household objects which aren’t supposed to be washed in the washing machine (remember to treat you car salon as well).
Since getting rid of nits is a lengthy process, prepare to spend a few hours combing them out of the kid’s hair. Here is a valuable advice of moms whose kids are infected by lice: “keep using the comb for a month along with oil, just to make sure that all lice and eggs have been totally removed”. Read all of the helpful product reviews on Amazon.com
Price: ~$14.79 Check the current price
Warning! The next product is the homeopathic product, which is sold on Amazon.com and is a bestselling item in the Lice Treatment Kits category. Licefreee Spray is one of the cheapest sprays (~$8.92) and perhaps that explains its popularity.
The label states that it contains natural ingredients: sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, and water. What alarmed us is the inscription that this is a homeopathic drug. As we’ve mentioned above, the scientists confirm that homeopathy cannot kill lice.
It’s crucial to pick a great comb. Regular ones for daily hair styling certainly won’t do here, as their teeth are too wide apart. The density of teeth of the lice comb should be extreme. This will cause lots of difficulties for the parents of kids with curly hair.
You can’t do without a comb when treating pediculosis. Not only does it remove the nits stuck to the hair, but it also helps to check whether there are alive or dead insects in the patient’s hair during treatment.
Nit Free Terminator Lice Comb, Professional Stainless Steel Louse and Nit Comb for Head Lice Treatment, Removes Nits
This is quite a large item here before us; its dimensions are 3x4 inches. It is made of stainless steel and the teeth are micro-corrugated so that the nits which are firmly attached to the hair are hitched up better. There are also corrugations on the handle. This is made to prevent the comb from sliding out of your hands when dealing very thick hair. Nit Free Terminator is durable enough for the manufacturers to issue a lifetime warranty for it. Its country of origin is the USA.
The buyers of this product note that it is more advantageous than many of its rivals. According to them, the micro-canals which are located on the teeth can really grip on more nits. In addition, the Terminator works fine for thin and fragile hair as well. Not every comb can do that! We weren’t able to find any complaints concerning the breakage of the comb, but we were able to find a few pieces of advice instead. The customers recommend using it on wet hair. Over 90% of the consumers consider the Terminator useful.
Unlike other classic combs, this one is available in sets of 2, 6, 10, 12, 24 and even 100 units for mass lice treatment. The reasonable price of ~$7 per unit or lower begins when you buy a set of 6 or more.
Price: from ~$7 to $11.10 (depending on the number in a set) Check the current price
Electronic lice combs are ambiguous gadgets. On the one hand, they facilitate nit removal and safeguard others against as the found eggs are not touched or shaken on the fabric due to the fact that some models of these devices work like vacuum cleaners and thus all lice eggs are collected in a container inside the device, which is then easily possible to flush down the toilet.
V-Comb - FDA Registered - Pesticide and Chemical Free - Natural Lice Treatment for Head Lice - Removes Lice and Eggs
It is a combination of a hair brush and a mini vacuum cleaner. It is the most gentle and soft hackle because its metal teeth ends are rounded. When you comb the hair, vacuum sucking in its handle starts to work and all of the lice and nits gripped are transported into disposable soft bags. The rating of the product is medium, it is 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com.
Price: ~$59.99 Check the current price
Warning! Not all the electronic devices are equally efficient. The manufacturer of LiceGuard RobiComb for ~$21.63 promises that this battery powered device will kill lice on contact by electrocution. Don’t fall for these empty promises though as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists have tested it and revealed that “The manufacturer claims lice trapped in the teeth are electrocuted, but we have not always found this to be true.“ That's why the result is all the same: 42% of the customers don’t consider this product effective and rating is only 3.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com. Also they are afraid to have some electric charge on their heads. Are you ready to spend money on such strange experiments?! Don’t do it, electrocuting doesn’t kill nits!
The customers appreciate Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray, Rosemary, 8 Fluid Ounce. It is the most popular spray on Amazon.com (its rating there is 4.6 out of 5 stars and there are hundreds of customer reviews). An 8 oz. bottle only costs $9.57. However, it can only be used a preventive (!) spray against head lice.
Its idea of operation is simple: the insects are repelled by the smell of an intense aroma blend containing rosemary, citronella, tea tree, mint, and sage and lemongrass oils. Let’s disclaim that we are far from calling this product odor-free. It smells like some strong women’s perfume.
By the way, it also contains B-5 vitamin and aloe vera, which means it softens and strengthens the hair, which is a nice perk. Spray it a few times over your kid’s hair before sending them to school.
Price: ~$9.57 Check the current price
Use products like the one below in order to disinfect the bed sheets, pillows, hats and other belongings of an infected person.
Liceadex-eX Home & Bedding Spray:: Complete Lice Home Removal - 32 oz.
This $19.65 product kills the pests on contact and serves as a repellent. It contains the most brutal mixture of sodium sulfate and sodium chloride, peppermint oil, and potassium sorbate. The idea is obvious: the chemicals kill the insects, and the peppermint odor repels them later on.
In the comments section, the customers describe their experiments of killing the insects. They would take a parasite, spray it… and watch it die within 12 seconds. That’s why the effectiveness of the killing on contact is unquestionable.
Price: ~$19.65 Check the current price
Best Lice Treatment: Comparison Chart
NIX Permethrin Lice Treatment Family Pack 2x2
RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit
|Elimination kit||Pyrethrum extract|
| Licefreee Spray
||Elimination kit||Sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, and water. This homeopathic product is not effective|
Nit Free Terminator
|Electronic||It's not effective|
Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray, Rosemary
|Preventive spray||Rosemary, citronella, tea tree, mint, and sage and lemongrass oils
Liceadex-eX Home & Bedding Spray
|Home & bedding spray||Sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, peppermint oil, and potassium sorbate
Natural Lice Treatment Is a Waste of Time and Money
As we’ve mentioned before, permethrin and pyrethrin-containing pediculicides are the most effective treatment methods. Natural treatment shows weaker results, if any. Bio-enzyme shampoos, homeopathic treatment and oil-based products (tea tree, olive, coconut, eucalyptus oils etc) are considered to be natural remedies.
Certain scientists believe that the oils are completely useless for killing lice and can only repel them. Others argue that the oils can kill, but this will require as much as 3 washings of the hair with an oil-based shampoo every 4 days, that is, you will have to wait for about 2 weeks until recovery.
Are you ready to watch your kid itching for an entire fortnight? Ifyour child is allergic to it? Is it worth a try? We believe you’d better treat the hair with proven Rid or Nix pediculicides (in accordance with the manuals) which guarantee recovery rather than suffer for 2 or more weeks without any reassurance.
Remember, using home remedies is the worst idea. It is the parents who seek to save on their children’s treatment and thus google treatment, who resort to this. Not only such remedies are ineffective, they are also highly dangerous!
Kerosene, gasoline, vinegar, mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, alcohol, etc are undesirable or even dangerous (gasoline and kerosene) treatments. In some cases such methods may be deadly. The University of Utah Health Care staff reminisces of a terrible case when the parents of a 1 year old baby who got infected with lice decided to use mayonnaise as treatment. They smeared the baby’s head with it, put a plastic shopping bag over it and left for a few hours. The bag slipped onto a baby’s face and the poor being suffocated.
The doctors are against using home remedies: The only safe and effective way to treat head lice is by using an over-the-counter or prescription medication,”says Ellie Brownstein, M.D., a pediatrician at University of Utah’s Greenwood Health Center. “Home remedies to treat lice, including the use of mayonnaise, vinegar or petroleum jelly in the hair and covering with a shower cap for several hours or days, do not work”, according to the Centers for Disease Control.