Head lice are one of the least pleasant insect pests. Other blood-sucking parasites, such as bed bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas disappear after biting you, while the head lice permanently settle in your hair and live there and harass you until you get rid of them: lice eggs will settle at your hair roots and adult lice will actively crawl through your hair. Do not your waste time on empty expectations of untested treatments!

In this article, we’ll provide you with a 5-step manual on how to get rid of head lice and explain why lice are dangerous to humans and how you can get infected. Moreover, we’ll answer the most popular questions about lice: whether they jump, if they can be found in furniture or on a school bus, why they are fonder of straight long hair how they are transmitted, whether it is possible to catch lice while taking a selfie, and if it is enough to simply wash your hair regularly to avoid them? We have collected all the useful and important information to help you get rid of lice quickly and effectively, and to never have a relapse. After all, even a couple of nits left on your head are able to start a comeback of a colony of blood-sucking lice.

Table of Contents:

How do you get head lice?

There are several ways to get infected:

  1. Adult lice usually just crawl from one infected person to the head of another, i.e. lice are transmitted with "head-to-head" contact. Lice can manage to quietly crawl even while you kiss or a hug a carrier.
  2. Lice eggs can rarely be transmitted through sharing personal objects, such as combs, elastic bands, towels, pillow cases etc.
  3. Nits can be found in garments. Do not wear someone else's clothes and hats; you could end up being infected!

You can catch lice from anyone who is infected, but the more lice a person has, the more dangerous the contact is. The chance of infecting peaks when a person has adult lice as the larvae never leave their host. If you’re forced to share a room with someone who apparently has something crawling through their hair, try to stay away from them.

Lice Signs & Symptoms

A head louse infestation can always be identified before it gets to the “head swarming with lice” stage. Common sense, attention to head and house hygiene will help you. What signs should keep you alert?

Eggs (nits). While a couple of small lice can get lost in thick hair, nits are much more noticeable, especially if you are meticulous in regard to hair care. A female louse attaches the eggs ¼ of an inch away from the scalp, and they look like little white specks. The nits attached over ¼ of an inch away from the base of the hair shaft are almost always dead or already hatched. It feels like they are grains of sand in the hair roots, which you can touch when shampooing. But, unlike some debris or dandruff, they are nearly impossible to remove with your fingers.

Larvae and adults. Yes, sometimes they are not easy to notice because of their small size (larvae are tinier than adults), but adult lice run around in their hair. They are especially active at night, so you’d better inspect your (or your child's) head at night. Do it as soon as possible once your kid is back from summer camp! Use a fine comb and a magnifying glass to look at the entire head, and don’t forget to divide the hair into different strands. Pay special attention to the occipital region of the head and behind the ears, as these are favorite spots of parasites.

Feces. Just like any other blood-sucking insects, lice may be invisible, but they have not yet learned to hide their feces. Pay attention to dark spots on the scalp as these are signs of live adults. Also, check your clothes in the neck and shoulder area, and the pillowcases for these spots.

best ways to get rid of lice

Head Lice Symptoms: What Should You Pay Attention To?

As a rule, the symptoms are crystal clear. This is especially true for infected children under 12 years of age, whose scalp is more susceptible to bites than that of adults. The latter, incidentally, completely lack sensitivity to bites in rare cases. Typically, the following symptoms are observed.

  • Severe irritation and scalp itch

As the Ohio State University Extension scientists explain, when a louse pierces human skin with its jaws, it injects histamine together with saliva. The former causes irritation and itching, and can even provoke allergic reactions in the worst-case scenario. By the way, all the blood-sucking insects are doing the same thing, so there may be an allergic reaction to any insect bites.

  • Head, neck and ears scratch

This symptom is the result of a previous one. It is especially common among kids who don’t always realize that such severe itching should be reported to adults; they simply keep scratching instead. Secondary infection is possible due to that (scalp bacteria can cause it).

  • Tingling or motion sensation in your hair

This sensation is felt because the lice crawl fairly quickly - about 1 inch in a few seconds.

  • Insomnia

Just like the bed bugs, lice are especially active at night and bite more at night.

  • General irritation amid all the unpleasant symptoms

These horrid symptoms will unlikely go unnoticed, but we hope that you’ll be able to detect them at the earliest stage if you use our tips.

10 Rules of Effective Lice Removal

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:

  1. Use pediculicides in accordance with the manuals only, never overdose them.
  2. Remember to boil your combs and brushes which are repeatedly used in the treatment process.
  3. Long-haired patients are to be specially consulted with regards to the dosage and measures of the products used.
  4. Make sure you follow the time span between applying and rinsing liquid hair pediculicides.
  5. Combine insecticide, medicine, and combing.
  6. Try only using combs when treating children.
  7. 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.
  8. Comb your hair to check for live or dead lice even 2-3 weeks after apparent healing.
  9. Consult a doctor for new treatment methods if the current ones don’t result in anything after 2-3 attempts.
  10. Usually, the doctors don’t mind using traditional methods, such as 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.

A 5-Step Guide to Getting Rid Of Lice

If you understand how lice appear and breed, it becomes clear that being lousy at getting rid of them or not finishing the job will be dangerous. Even a couple of nits on your head are able to re-create the colony of bloodsucking lice on your head. Don’t hurry to shave your head, though, especially if your hair is long. It’s a very radical solution and it will only do for brutal men or small children. Don’t sacrifice your hair, just be consistent and patient and use proper treatment in order to get rid of lice. Here are 5 steps to follow.

how to get rid of head lice?

Step 1: Head Inspection

In this case, invasion is the presence of live adult lice, larvae and young white (or brown) nits. Look for all possible signs of head lice, exploring all areas of the scalp. Pay special attention to the back of the head and the area behind the ears. Not only the infected people, but also those who have had close contact with them are subject to this inspection. So hiding the fact that someone has lice is a very bad idea! If you or your child has head lice, you are not to blame, don’t be ashamed to let others know about the incident.

Step 2: Preparing the Instruments You Need to Get Rid of Lice

To get rid of head lice you’ll need a pediculicide shampoo, a special comb for combing lice nits and adult species and oil (tea tree, olive), which facilitates combing. Simply washing your head with regular shampoo does not solve the problem; it will simply waste your time! Lice get stuck to the hair too hard! It is better to use this treatment as a package to ensure you get rid of all head lice, be it adults, larvae or nits.

Apart from these items, you might require such supplementary things as nail scissors, cloth, a bowl of water, magnifying glass and an ordinary comb.

Step 3: Shampooing

Using a pediculicide shampoo is the first step in treating your head from head lice. Getting rid of adult lice largely depends on the effectiveness of the shampoo (this is not so true for the nits). That’s why you might start thinking about active ingredients which are proven to have a pediculicide effect. What should you look for while checking out the shampoo? Read more about the best shampoos and their active ingredients in our article about head lice treatment.

Step 4: Combing Lice Eggs (Nits) Using a Nit Comb

As we’ve said, shampoo does not help get rid of all the eggs as some of them will still survive and become larvae. Therefore, in addition to the repeated use of shampoo, you need to use a mechanical treatment method, i.e.to comb all the hair, strand by strand, with special frequent fine-toothed metal comb which can even be electric. But do not relax after the procedure: to achieve the best effect, you need to perform the procedure on a daily basis on everyone who is infected for at least a week to make sure that not a single egg was missed. What is the best comb? Find popular nit combs - from conventional to electric ones in “How to get rid of lice eggs (nits)? Best lice combs”.

Step 5: Cleaning and Washing

The two key measures to take while eliminating head lice are shampoo treatment and combing. Since the lice don’t survive long after being removed, house cleaning won’t directly affect the pediculosis epidemic you have. You need it rather for maintaining good hygiene (to remove louse feces and dead nits) and peace of mind. You are supposed to wash the clothes and vacuum clean your accommodation.

  • Wash bed linen, towels and clothes of an infected person in hot water (140º at least). Special attention should also be paid to hats and outerwear. It will be even better to dry all clothes in a hot dryer after washing, and then to iron them with a hot iron. If clothes cannot be laundered, dry clean them.
  • Vacuum clean your bed, furniture upholstery and carpets where hairs with nits could be left. Don’t neglect any items which could have touched the head, such as car seats.

Don’t be fanatical; the mentioned measures will be sufficient for living in a house after recovery. There is no need to wash furniture and household objects with insecticides; you’d be better spending more time on a daily hair combing. However, despite the fact that no insecticide treatment is required, natural lice sprays for furniture and bedding are popular on Amazon.com. They are used by some particularly scrupulous people who want to attain perfect cleanliness and 100% guarantee of getting rid of lice in the house: check it out at Amazon.com.

How to Kill Head Lice with Pediculicides

Effective and Not So Much Effective Active Ingredients of Pediculicides Comparative Table

Active Ingredient Is It Effective? Target Disadvantages
Permethrin and pyrethrins Yes Larvae and adults. Some lice populations may also acquire resistance to the effects of permethrin- or pyrethrin-based products.
Spinosad Yes Larvae and adults, can also affect egg development. It is only available on prescription.
Lindane Yes, but  it is not recommended as a first-line treatment. Larvae and adults It’s extremely toxic for patients, medics and water.  Lindane has a lot of use restrictions.
Ivermectin Yes, but only topical form was approved  by  the  FDA. Larvae and adults. It is only available on prescription.
Enzymes No, it can only be used to faciliate hair brushing. Not effective. They don’t dissolve the adults’ exoskeletons and the glue that grips nits to the hair, as promised by manufacturers.
Olive oil, coconut oil, tea tree oil No, but there is certain repelling action. May repel adult lice. Oils can’t kill lice.
“Homeopathic pediculicides” No, it can only be used to faciliate hair brushing. Not effective. They don’t dissolve the adults’ exoskeletons and the glue that grips nits to the hair, as promised by manufacturers.
  • Permethrin and pyrethrins - YES, they are effective

The scientists believe that chemical insecticides that are often used against certain insect species for too long (over ten years) can partially lose their killing action since the insects become resistant to the chemicals and pass such resistance on to the next generations. Most products, including shampoos, contain widespread insecticides, namely permethrin or pyrethrins. They are considered to be effective, but as Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist from University of Kentucky College of Agriculture claims, some lice populations may also acquire resistance to the effects of permethrin-based products. He adds: “Resistance to pyrethrin/piperonyl butoxide formulations appears to be less common.”

Mind that both permethrin and pyrethrins act on the adult lice, but do not have an ovicidial effect, i.e. they do not kill the eggs. An adult louse should die within 30 minutes (when using pyrethrin) to several hours (when using permethrin) after medicated shampoo treatment. If you find live parasites after the time stated (up to 8 hours), then the lice are resistant to this insecticide. In this case, stop using this product and get another shampoo (if you used a permethrin one, buy pyrethrin and vice versa). Repeatedly wash the head with shampoo after 7-10 days.

CDC (Centers for Disease control & prevention) warns the users of the pyrethrins use restrictions: “Pyrethrins generally should not be used by persons who are allergic to chrysanthemums or ragweed. Pyrethrin is approved for use on children 2 years of age and older”. Permethrin is considered to be milder, as shampoos containing it can be used even on 2 month old babies.

  • Spinosad: YES, it is effective, but is a prescription treatment

Spinosad is an organic insecticide obtained by fermenting certain soil bacteria (namely actinomycete Saccharopolyspora spinosa). According to the National Pesticide Information Center, human and pets pediculicides regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration contain spinosad. It was approved by FDA in 2011 as a 0.9% suspension (Natroba).

University of Virginia School of Medicine scientists have found out that spinosad can perform even better than 1% permethrin. It is not only a pediculicide, but also an ovicide (i.e. it also kills lice eggs). This does not release you from the need to use comb. Spinosad-based products are suitable for treating lice on children over four years old. This is a prescription medicine.

  • Lindane - YES, it is effective, but toxic

In the past, the insecticides containing lindane were quite popular. But, as the University of California Statewide IPM Program and CDC experts explain, lindane is extremely toxic and its use is associated with unpleasant side effects for both the patients and the medics. It also strongly pollutes the water and has a lot of use restrictions: it is forbidden to treat pregnant women, the elderly, infants, people with a variety of different diseases and those weighing less than 100 pounds with it. Therefore, although lindane shampoo 1% is approved by the FDA for the treatment of head lice, it is not recommended as a first-line treatment. "While lindane is still available by prescription, pyrethrin and permethrin are safer, more effective, and less polluting than lindane."

  • Ivermectin: YES, it is effective, but is a prescription treatment

Ivermectin is a well-known compound which interacts with adult lice’s nerve and muscle tissues causing paralysis and death. This pediculicide is available in oral and topical forms. As the University of Virginia School of Medicine specialists state, “topical ivermectin 0.5% lotion (Sklice®) was approved by the FDA in 2012 for the treatment of lice in children 6 months of age and older.” The product is considered to be a “one-time use topical remedy”. Its oral form has not been approved due to its high toxicity.

Judging by the scientific research, although ivermectin is considered to be an ovicide, it is not such. One-time use will not kill nits.

  • Enzymes (oxidoreductase, transferase, lyase, hydrolase, isomerase, ligase etc) – NO, they are ineffective

Nowadays the so-called enzyme shampoos and gels containing non-toxic enzymes are very popular. They are promised to interrupt the breeding cycle by dissolving the adults’ exoskeletons and the glue that gri[s nits to the hair. Allegedly, after using this shampoo or gel, nits are actually fall off your hair and there is no need to bother with hair combing.

This doesn’t turn out to be true, as according to the same University of California Statewide IPM Program specialists: “Enzymatic treatments, including shampoos that claim to dissolve eggs, the cement that attaches eggs to the hair, or the exoskeleton of the adults, are also available to use against head lice. Although these materials are very appealing because of their relative nontoxicity, in university-conducted research trials none of them has yet proven to work as advertised”.

Enzyme gels can be used after an insecticidal shampoo simply to facilitate hair combing.

  • Olive, coconut oil, tea tree oil - NO, they are ineffective, but there is certain repelling action

natural oils for lice

What do you do if you do not want to treat your head with chemicals? Scientists are still arguing about the effectiveness of oils. Some believe that oil absolutely does not work, while others, like the University of California Statewide IPM Program specialists recommend trying soap shampoos containing coconut or olive oil. To observe the effect, you need to wash your hair with this shampoo 3 times with a 4 day interval. However, there may be no killing effect as no one gives a guarantee - so it's best to turn directly to the specialized shampoos. On the other hand, the oils can produce repelling effect, so as a preventive measure, you can use tea tree oil based treatment.

  • “Homeopathic pediculicides”: Salts containing sodium chloride, i.e. table salt, minerals, plants, animal material - NO, they are ineffective

Homeopathic shampoos or gels are a waste of time and money. Homeopathy does not work: you will only end up having even more lice while you wait for a shampoo to work. Gels will not cope with the task either, although, they are promised, like products with enzymes, to dissolve the nits glue. Still, they can be used simply to facilitate combing the hair.

Conclusion: don’t be driven by ads! You’d better use proven permethrin or pyrethrin shampoos as they are most effective.

Getting rid of lice with shampoo & rinse

Don’t be astonished that we’ve only picked two best products. Surprisingly, among the many lice shampoos 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.

NIX Permethrin Lice Treatment Family Pack 2x2 ounce bottles

Nyx Permethrin Lice  Treatment Kit

This Nix set for ~$18.39 contains a special permetrin 1%-based cream rinse. The Nix products are recommended even by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, permethrin is considered to be gentler than pyrethrin which 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.

Price: ~$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.

RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit by Bayer

One of the truly effective shampoos which can be used for kids over 2 years old is the RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit for ~$14.79. Its active ingredient, Pyrethrins (naturally occurring pyrethroid extracts from the chrysanthemum flower) was approved by the FDA.

 RID lice treatment kit

This is a kit containing 4 items aimed at removing the lice. The system is complex: it contains a shampoo, a gel, a comb and a spray. Step 1 is the lice killing shampoo treatment (the active ingredient of the shampoo is Pyrethrum extract). Step 2 is using the lice and egg comb-out 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).

Wash your kid’s hair with a special pediculicidal shampoo; then use the gel for combing the lice and nits out of their hair. The kit also contains a 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 your car’s interior as well).

images/Licefreee_Spray.jpg

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 a louse. So please, be careful and remember that only combing helps against nits and pediculicides treat lice.

Ready-to-use Pediculicides Comparison Chart

Item Type Active Ingredients How does it work? Is it safe for kids and adults? Price

NIX Permethrin Family Pack

NIX Permethrin Family Pack

Elimination kit: 2 cream rinse bottles & 2 combs. Permetrin Cream rinse kills adult lice. Comb helps you to get rid of nits.. Suitable for 2 months-old babies and older.

~$18.39

RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit

RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit

Elimination kit: shampoo, comb, comb-out gel, spray. Pyrethrins& permethrin Shampoo kills adult lice. Comb and comb-out gel help you to get rid of nits. Spray kills lice in the house. Suitable for kids over 2 years old.

~$14.79

Licefreee

Licefreee

Elimination kit: spray and comb. Sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, and water. It’s not effective as it is a homeopathic product. No

~$8.92

7 Tips for using pediculicide shampoo

  • Don’t use a shampoo and a conditioner or a conditioner before using a lice shampoo.
  • When treating the head, wear gloves and push your hair when washing it. It is important that the insecticide does not get in your eyes, mouth, nose, body and mucous membranes; do not use it as a regular shower shampoo!
  • Use cool or cold water for the treatment. Hot water opens scalp pores and allows for many synthetic chemicals to be absorbed.
  • Be consistent! Not only do you have to wash your head, but you should also make sure that every louse is dead and then carry out repeat treatment within 7-10 days. This is done to get rid of the larvae that used to be nits and thus survived.
  • If you have asthma, allergies or if you are pregnant, consult your physician before using this or any other medicated shampoo.
  • If many people undergo treatment, they should use the shampoo simultaneously, within 24 hours in order to prevent repeat infestation.
  • You can wash your head again or visit a swimming pool only 2 days after using a medicated shampoo, else the treatment effect can be reduced.

NB! Let us remind you that the combination of a shampoo and combing is the most effective type of treatment. After you’ve killed all of the adults and larvae with shampoo, you must comb the eggs.

Home remedy for head lice: mayonnaise, vinegar or petroleum jelly. Do they work or are they lethal?

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 are such remedies 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 thing 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.

How To Kill Lice Eggs: Myths And Truth

Method Effectiveness in regard to nits Comment
Chemical pediculicide shampoos, gels, lotions No Chemical pediculicides don't kill nits as they affect the CNS which is not entirely formed in nits' bodies. That is why pediculicides (permethrin and pyrethrin-based products) kill adult lice only – read more about how to kill adult lice in our article about lice treatment.
Electrocuting No Despite the promises of the manufacturers of certain electric combs with an electrocution function, the scientists believe that lice nits cannot be killed by electrocution on contact.
Ducking No When dunked, lice nits are not separated from hair and don't suffocate. They can also survive in water for several hours. You won't be waiting with your head under water for several hours, will you?
Frost No The nits won't survive at the 74°F temperature, but your body temperature won't reach this figure even if you go out in winter without a hat.
Head shaving Yes This is the most radical and brutal method which we don't recommend. Having nits is not a sufficient reason to say goodbye to your hair. There exist milder, effective treatment ways.
Heating with hair dryer Yes, but the effect is poor Theoretically, the nits won't survive any temperature that is drastically different from the normal human body temperature. Most of the nits will die when the head is heated to 125°F or higher. This method, however, cannot be used as a primary one. It can only be a supplement to the main one.
Nit-picking and lice combing Yes, 100% result Mechanical method means manual combing of the hair with a special metal comb with long and tightly placed teeth to each other. This is considered to be the most effective method which is guaranteed to have a positive result.

As you can see, it’s not like you don’t have a choice, but only combing your hair with a special lice comb will guarantee getting rid of the nits. Below, we’ll outline the best models and give useful advice regarding how to properly do nit-picking without causing any harm to those who carry out the procedure.

Lice Comb Is A 100% Guarantee of Getting Rid Of Lice Eggs

Combing for nits is a long, backbreaking, but most effective way which also helps to check whether there are alive or dead insects in the patient's hair during treatment. The most important thing in this case is to be careful and be sure to comb out all the eggs, or the lice will breed again and torment you at night. But do not rush immediately to look for any comb as an ordinary one will not work.

Plastic or Metal Head Lice Comb?

Use only a metal comb with long teeth. Ordinary plastic combs are not suitable to comb the lice out of the head. They are useless because they bend easily and their teeth are separate from each other. Therefore, such a comb simply will not grip larvae and adult lice. Short-toothed combs, both plastic and metal won’t be suitable either. You might like not only ordinary metal, but also modern electronic combs, which combine the functions of a comb and a vacuum cleaner. With such a device you will not have to remove by hand any nits found as they are stored in a container inside the device.

Here are some of the models of combs we strongly recommend! Let’s start with classic metal lice combs.

How to pick a metal lice comb?

All metal lice combs are similar as they have long teeth made of steel and tightly pressed to each other with a comfortable handle. A classic best-selling comb, however, has long been renowned by thousands of customers.

Lice Combs Comparison Chart

Product Type of comb Peculiarities Price

Nit Free Terminator

Nit Free Terminator

Metal (made of stainless steel) #1 best-selling lice comb with a lifetime warranty.

~$9.98

V-Comb Electronic

V-Comb Electronic

Electronic It is a combination of a hair brush and a mini vacuum cleaner.

~$59.99

LiceGuard RobiComb

LiceGuard RobiComb

Battery powered electronic The manufacturer promises that this comb will kill lice on contact by electrocution. Scientists claim that it’s not true.

~$27.49

7 Tips on How to Use a Comb

Let’s now get back to the actual technique. Based on the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and different US universities’ scientists’ opinion, we’ve drawn up the main tips concerning nit combing:

  1. After you have washed your head with lice shampoo, dry your hair a bit before combing so that the water doesn’t drip off them. Dry your hair completely if you use an electronic comb.

  2. Apply some oil (olive or tea tree oil) or hair gel/conditioner on the roots of your hair to facilitate the process. You can use either regular hair gels, conditioners or special ones, such as ones with rosemary extract which not only facilitate comb sliding but also repel lice.

  3. Prepare: make sure the room is well-lit, pour some water into a bowl to clean the comb or prepare a dense transparent bag. Also place a bright cloth under your hair (red, for instance) to make white and brown nits as well as white-grayish adults equally visible.

  4. Comb all hairs starting from the temple down to the ends as close to the scalp as possible in all directions. You may find it easier if the hair is pre-divided into small strands across the head. Carefully inspect the comb for eggs and live lice, when washing it in the bowl with water or cleaning off in the bag. The procedure can take up to an hour or more, especially if the hair is very thick, long and light.

  5. If certain nits cling to the hair tightly, cut these hairs with small nail scissors.

  6. Flush the water from the bowel down the toilet regularly and re-fill the bowl.

  7. After you have combed the entire head, wash your hair with regular shampoo to wash off the oil. Clean the comb (or better, boil it for 15 minutes if it is made of metal). After that, you can comb another patient.

5 Tips for People Who Do Nit-Picking

As we don’t recommend self-combing, it’s important to protect the person who is going to comb a lice patient from possible infection. We have prepared several tips for these brave warriors.

  1. Make sure that you do not touch your hair while nit-picking as you can catch lice! If necessary, secure your hair with hair clips, bobby pins, etc. or tie it back.

  2. Take off any bracelets, rings or other jewelry when combing someone.

  3. Wear short gloves to avoid touching lice.

  4. In order to protect your clothes, wear a garbage bag over them so that it doesn’t hold down your movements and covers your front. Don’t forget to take it afterwards (over your legs and not over your head, obviously).

  5. Once you’re done, place the gloves and the garbage bag into a plastic bag and dispose of it. Wash your hands well with soap.

How to Prevent Lice

You can make your own lice prevention shampoo by adding a few drops of tea tree oil in your regular shampoo, or you can buy a ready-to-use one. It depends on your preferences, and on which essential oil smell is most pleasant for you: tea tree, lavender or rosemary oil?

If you prefer 100% organic products and tea tree smell, read our detailed review of Using Tea Tree Oil to Repel Lice.

Below, we have listed some ready-to-use shampoos with rosemary oil which can be used on you or your child’s head.

Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Creme Shampoo, 12 fl.oz. + Conditioner, 8 fl.oz.

This is a classic shampoo made by a famous manufacturer. It is positioned as a children’s product, but it can be used by adults as well. It contains a whole range of vitamins, minerals, and the main lice repellent: essential oils. This preventive product costs almost ~$18.43 and has a decent rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com. A free bottle of a brand hair conditioner is supplied with the shampoo.

Fairy Tales Repeal Conditioning Spray

The manufacturers boast that their shampoo is officially recommended by pediatricians. Apparently the clinical tests have shown an effectiveness of 90% of using this shampoo and conditioner along with the brand’s spray. However, we didn’t find anything about some particular licenses or certificates of any medical institutions. The customers praise simultaneous use of the shampoo and the conditioner as they both do their job quite fine.

Price: ~$18.43 Check the current price

16 FAQs Before You Start To Get Rid Of Head Lice

Head lice are one of the two forms of blood-sucking parasite species common for humans only. They are small and flat, about ⅛ inch in length, the size of a sesame seed. Their color ranges from grayish white to gray-black. Adult lice have 3 pairs of grasping legs allowing them to firmly grab hair and balance on the head. Lice eggs (or nits) are white and are attached to the hair with a special kind of "glue": a sticky substance exuded by the female species. Lice prefer to settle in secret places, such as the occipital region of the head and behind the ears.

These are the basic facts about lice, which are known to everyone, but the behavior of the lice and the harm they cause to humans are surrounded by many myths that need dispelling. We’ll answer the most frequently asked questions related to the behavior of these parasites. Before you start a fight with such an unpleasant enemy, you need to know as much as possible about it!

How do lice live and how quickly do they breed?

A louse grows for about 3 weeks: it begins at the nit stage, when a female lays the eggs on your head’s skin by gluing them so tightly to the hair that you won’t be able to wash them off. The larvae hatch within 8-9 days, and they will require about 3 feedings and 10 days to change the skin and eventually become an adult insect. As they live on top of their "food source", there are virtually no delays in their development. As adults, lice immediately begin to breed. As the IPM program in North Carolina State University experts report, adults live from 30 to 40 days, and they need at least 5 portions of blood a day to lay 6-8 eggs per day.

Do lice jump or fly?

They neither jump nor fly. Unlike fleas, they have prehensile paws that are intended only to cling to human hair, but they are not suitable for jumping. Besides, lice have quite a massive body and no wings. All of this would make them extremely vulnerable to parasites ... if they couldn’t crawl. They do it masterfully fast and deftly. As scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln defined it, “they can crawl quickly through the hair at a rate of 9 inches per minute.”

Is it true that poor hygiene can cause head lice if you don’t wash your hair for too long?

No, contrary to popular belief, head lice do not infect humans spontaneously, i.e. through poor hygiene; they can only be transferred from another infected person.). But there is a body lice. Such parasites live on clothing and bedding, and are caused by poor personal hygiene and rare change of underwear.

how to get rid of lice

Can lice breed after being removed from your head?

No, head lice do not live long after being removed from your head! Eggs need to be in constant contact with a warm human head and so they die within a few hours after removal. Larvae and adults require blood for timely molting, maintaining life and reproduction, so they also die after about 2 days of being removed. Do not have irrational fears as head lice can only survive while on the host’s head. They do not crawl on carpets, furniture or in vehicles (e.g. a school bus) in search of a new host, but simply die, leaving a person’s head.

You'll find many lice-removal tips in The 5-Step Guide on How to Remove Head Lice

Can you catch lice while taking a selfie?

Yes, there is a chance as people tend to be head-to-head while taking a selfie, allowing for a perfect route for lice. These parasites need only a few seconds to overcome a 1 inch distance between two people. Therefore, it is better not to take selfies with random strangers!

Can you catch lice while taking a selfie?

Can you get lice while at home?

Yes, you can. The most common places for adults to catch lice are home and public places. The lice are usually brought by kids from kindergarten or rarely, school or summer camp. In this way, couples, families and even neighbors and roommates are considered to be especially at risk as they spend much time quite close to each other.

Can you get lice in transit, Movie Theater or at work?

As for public places, you can easily catch lice in public transit, gym, theater as well as wherever there are strangers around you. Policemen, doctors, social workers and others obliged to contact with strangers are at risk. How do they prevent the disease? They use tea tree oil. Read our article about How to Use Tea Tree Oil to Repel Lice.

Is it true that only kids have lice?

Not quite. Lice, indeed, are often found in children aged 3 to 12 years, as they usually spend a lot of time together in groups. It is a piece of cake for lice to crawl from one head to another. In kindergarten, the children play together and nap next to each other. So if lice has infested one child, we can give you an almost 100% guarantee that soon everyone will be infected. In addition, young children often do not seek the causes of itching of their heads and do not complain about it, they just comb. Therefore, regular medical examinations of children for head lice must be carried out in schools and kindergartens. But adults can also be infected as absolutely no one is immune.

Do people with straight long hair get lice more easily?

Yes, hygiene, type and length of the hair have to do with infection. But, as we’ve mentioned before, the lice don’t come to dirt, in this case hygiene has a much unexpected effect. Lice are not selective and can infect anyone, but it is believed that they would rather settle in clean, long and straight hair, the roots of which are free from grease, dust and skin flakes (!) as such hair is easier for them to cling to.

Why do they prefer straight hair? Different types of hair (straight, wavy and curly) have various cross sections and numbers of hair shafts. So, straight hair has a circular cross section and a single shaft which facilitates catching lice. Therefore, according to the information from NC State University IPM program, “African-American children get head lice much less frequently than children of other backgrounds do, apparently because of a difference in the structure of the hair shaft.”

Why do they like long hair? Often the hair is let down instead of put up which makes it easier for lice to climb the hair and settle near the roots. It is also believed that stressed people are more likely to suffer from lice as apparently they worry more often which is attractive for lice.

Is it possible to determine the period of infection at a glance?

It’s virtually impossible. If you happened to notice plenty of lice on your head, then obviously, you’ve been a carrier for a long time. Let us remind you that a generation of lice requires about 3 weeks to become adult and to multiply.

Also bear in mind that usually the nits are white, but when the hatching time draws close, they become brownish. Nits of such color mean that larvae are about to hatch.

how to detect head lice

Can you catch lice from your pets: cats and dogs?

No, pets have other types of lice which are peculiar to them and are not transmitted to human beings or other species. Cat lice, for instance, won’t feed on a human, dog or other blood. Head lice cannot in turn infect anyone other than humans and certain types of apes.

Why are Lice Harmful for Humans?

Head lice are not known to transmit any infectious diseases from person to person - this fact is proved by scientists from University of California Statewide IPM Program.

But pediculosis is a classic disease which is most spread and caused by head lice activity. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 6-12 million USA citizens encounter head lice annually. The disease affects human skin, hair, and the blood system, as adult lice feed on human blood and stick their eggs to human hair. This usually results in strong itching, scratched skull, horrible appearance and “contamination” stigma.

The devil of pediculosis is that it only shows itself within 2-3 weeks of contamination. You can have an entire lice population living on your head and have no clue about it, as the pests haven’t started their action yet. Apart from pediculosis, a secondary bacterial infection is another threat caused by lice. According to the same old HNG, it occurs when the scratches on your skin become too deep. Allergic people can also end up with fever, dizziness and nausea as the bites are rather allergic. There is also a correlation between lice bites and cervical lymph nodes enlargement.

According to the New York Health Department experts, pediculosis never goes away just like that, like a cold or a migraine. Lice will gnaw your head until you decide to get rid of them. To make it worse, more and more pests will be there on your head each month, and along with them, you’ll see the most noticeable signs of an emergency, such as scratches on your head, neck and around the ears.

How do you get rid of head lice?

The best way to get rid of lice is to destroy their entire life cycle (nits, larvae and adults) step by step. Start off by killing larvae and adult lice with pediculicides. Use shampoos or cream rinses approved by the scientists for this purpose. Then you will need a metal comb to comb out the nits. There is no way to kill them as their dense sheath protects them. You will have to comb them out daily until they are completely gone. If needed, repeat shampoo treatment every 7-10 days to kill new generations of hatched larvae.

How do you kill lice on furniture?

You will see lice on furniture in extremely rare cases. As a rule, they sit tight on hair as it is vital for them to always be in contact with a human for consistent feeding on blood and staying alive. They die soon enough once the temperature is below human body temperature. However, if any need in treating surfaces with which pediculosis patients come in contact arises, use domestic anti-flea sprays. They contain permethrin which will kill adults on contact.

How do you kill lice eggs?

Lice eggs are not affected by synthetic pediculicides and cannot be killed. The only useful treatment is natural spinosad-based suspensions, but they are not available on the open market. Therefore, there are only two effective ways for getting rid of nits. The first one is the most radical and quick: shaving the entire head. There will be no lice if there is no hair. Men will resort to this method more frequently.

The second method is mechanical (i.e. combing) and is suitable if you are not ready to sacrifice your hair. Use a metal fine-tooth comb to remove parasites from your hair. To ease the process, apply some tea tree oil or combing gel on your hair. Repeat the procedure daily until the parasites are fully removed.

If you are the one to comb a victim’s hair, use protective measures so you don’t catch nits. Take off any jewelry, wear protective gloves and a trash bag over your clothes to take it all off immediately and throw out.

How do you treat your house for lice?

A permethrin-based spray is best for house treatment. It will kill adults on contact. Also, remember to wash a victim’s bed sheets, clothes and hats in hot water. Vacuum clean and dry clean, if needed, all mattresses and pillows.

How to Get Rid of Lice – INFOGRAPHIC

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.

Your child has just returned from school or camp. Is there an awful itching and scratches on your child’s head, neck and around the ears? It’s lice! Don’t panic!

Here is a 5-Step Strategy for Removing Head Lice and Nits. Lice 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.

Lice
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