Getting head lice is almost a staple feature of late childhood. Many of us have very painful and unpleasant memories of spending Sunday afternoons out in the sun, with our head hanging low, as mom combed through our hair and killed the 'blood-suckers' (pun intended!). The head louse is one of the most common childhood problems, especially in a humid and warm-weather country like India.
Can Babies Get Head Lice?
Head lice can be a significant pest. Infestation by head lice can be surprisingly distressing, and we fight the urge to constantly scratch our head. To think of a baby having to go through it will give any mother legit nightmares! But can babies really get head lice?
The short answer is – yes, babies can get head lice!
As mothers, we typically tend to dismiss head lice as a problem that will not come around to bother or bug you till your child starts going to school. However, there are several ways in which your newborn can get head lice too.
1. Older Sibling: We are pretty sure this one made sense as soon as you read it. If you have an older child who is of school-going age, then your younger one is bound to catch head lice from the older one. In fact, this is one of the biggest causes of newborn babies getting head lice.
2. Nursery/Play School: Many parents these days send their newborns to day-care, crèches or play-school. There are children of all mixed age groups here. Even if the children are not allowed to directly interact with significantly younger children or babies, there can be few personnel at the daycare that are common. These kids can act as carriers of head lice.
3. Neighbours, Relative, People You Meet: While head lice do not affect adults as much or as often as they do pre-schoolers and pre-teens, adults can still act as carriers of head lice.
10 Natural Home Remedies for Head Lice
NOTE: The following remedies are completely safe to use for babies. However, it is still recommended to use these remedies in consultation with your trusted paediatrician, to be extra cautious. Also, never use any chemical-based products before checking with the doctor first.
Most of the medical remedies for lice removal that we follow for adults cannot be used for babies – including topical solutions or powders, shampoos, etc. However, if left unchecked, head lice can proliferate and cause a lot of pain to your little one. So, here are some natural remedies for treatment for head lice at home.
1. Lice Comb
The tried and tested, good old way of removing head lice and head lice eggs from your child's hair is using a lice comb. Using a head lice comb to get rid of lice from your baby's hair is easy as the sheer volume of hair on your infant's head is less. You will hence not be required to use force to comb through your baby's hair, as you would have had to with an older child.
TIP: Use a head lice comb with utmost precaution. The teeth of the comb are sharp and can hurt your baby. It is most advisable to use oil or conditioner with the comb, to enable easy gliding of the comb through your baby's hair.
That's right: not only is oil good for baby massage, it also helps cure head lice! Baby oil, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, tea tree oil, neem oil - have all been found to be effective for treating head lice. While it is best to use baby oil for newborns and infants, other oils may be used for slightly older babies. It is recommended to dab your baby's head with oil before putting him down for a good night's sleep. Alternatively, you may use oil after every bath you give to the baby.
TIP: Make sure that you do not overdo it. Moisture is one of the biggest factors that help head lice thrive.
Vinegar contains acetic acid. Acetic acid can kill off head lice. It also helps dissolve the sticky substance that head lice secrete while releasing their eggs onto a strand of human hair. Vinegar is hence not only a good remedy for treating lice, it is also an effective answer to 'how to remove lice eggs from hair'.
TIP: Make sure to dilute vinegar with double the amount of water before using it on your baby's hair. So, if you are using 1 tbsp of vinegar, mix it with 2 tbsp of water, and then use this solution on your baby. Apply the solution to your baby's hair, leave it on for around half an hour, then dip your lice comb in the solution and comb through.
4. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly is hypoallergenic and may be safely used as one of the home remedies for lice removal. Petroleum jelly basically cuts off the air supply for the lice. It suffocates them to death. Applying petroleum jelly before using a lice comb can also be very effective.
TIP: Wrap your baby's head after applying petroleum jelly to further increase its effectiveness. You may even use baby oil to remove the jelly from your baby's hair. It is best to opt for this home treatment for lice the night before your baby's bath-day.
Head lice love cold, dark, warm places. This is why you will always find them on the inner hair strands rather than the outer ones. This is also one of the reasons why they are more commonly found in people who have thicker, denser hair. One of the best ways to get rid of head lice is to expose them to sunlight and kill them off. While this may not be easy to execute in adults because they have more hair, it is quite effective in babies.
TIP: Make sure you do not expose your baby to harsh sunlight. Choose the early morning sunlight – it is also good for Vitamin D (an added bonus!). Make sure you cover your baby's face and body appropriately to prevent the sun from otherwise adversely affecting your baby.
Garlic can serve as an excellent home remedy to get rid of lice. The strong smell of garlic kills head lice. Take 8 to 10 cloves of garlic and grind them to make a paste. Add 2-3 teaspoons of lime juice to the paste and mix well. Apply this mixture of garlic and lemon onto your baby’s scalp and leave it for half an hour. Later, wash your baby’s hair with hot water.
TIP: Don’t leave this paste on your baby’s hair for too long, as the pungent smell of garlic can be a bit overpowering. Also, while washing your baby’s hair, first check the temperature of the water. It should not be boiling hot, as it can hurt the baby.
7. Onion Juice
We always have onions in our kitchen. Lunch and dinner seem incomplete without a slice or two of onions. But did you know that onions can be used to get rid of those ugly head lice too? Onions are easily available and are affordable too! All you need to do is, make onion juice and apply it on your baby’s scalp. Leave it on your baby’s scalp for 3-4 hours, by then the lice and nits would be dead. Remove the dead lice with a clean nit comb, apply shampoo, then wash your baby’s hair.
TIP: Applying onion juice is an effective treatment for lice infestation. However, you cannot get rid of this problem in a day. If you want this remedy to be effective in the long run, make sure you apply onion juice every 3-4 days.
8. Mashed Apples
Did you just wrinkle your nose on finding mashed apples in this list? Applying mashed apple on your baby’s hair may not be the most appealing idea, but it sure is effective. Take an apple, mash it thoroughly, and apply on your baby’s scalp. Leave it for a few hours and then wash his hair. TIP: When applying mashed apples on your baby’s head, remember that you apply in a way that the hair is covered completely.
9. Baking Soda
Baking soda also helps in removing head lice. To use baking soda to get rid of head lice, mix 1-part baking soda with 3-parts of hair conditioner. Apply this mixture on your baby’s head and gently comb his hair by sections to remove the dead lice. Rinse your baby’s hair using an anti-lice shampoo.
TIP: When combing your baby’s hair while removing head lice, do it gently. For a complete treatment, continue with this remedy for a few times in the coming days.
The thought of putting mayonnaise on your baby’s head may seem gross, but it sure works! The viscosity of mayonnaise suffocates the lice and kills them. For this home remedy to work, gently massage your baby’s scalp with mayonnaise. Cover his head with a shower cap and leave it overnight. The next morning rinse your baby’s hair.
TIP: Wash your baby’s hair well to remove any trace of grease. For best results, repeat this after 7-10 days. If possible, use homemade mayonnaise or full-fat mayonnaise.
Why Are Parents Looking For Home Remedies For Head Lice
Every parent will always look for home remedies and organic, natural methods to treat any ailment in their child, with the view of shielding their child from harmful and harsh chemicals. Head lice treatment products are known to make the scalp dry, and the hair dry and brittle. So, it is no surprise that parents are always on the lookout for natural remedies for head lice.
However, a recent study conducted at the 'University of Rennes' has given us a more concrete reason to try and seek alternative, i.e. natural head lice treatment methods. The main group of chemicals in any head lice treatment product is pyrethroids. According to the study, pyrethroids can cause behavioural problems in children by affecting brain signalling. Children of pregnant women who are exposed to pyrethroids are more like to develop behavioural problems too, typically by the age of six years.
Dimeticone & Essential Oils: New Line of Head Lice Treatment
While most of the above mentioned tips can get rid of head lice, a severe infestation of head lice (like the one shown in the video below) may require stronger methods of treatment.
WATCH: This Head Lice Infection Is The Stuff Of Every Mom's Worst Nightmare!
Warning: Video may be too graphic for some viewers. Proceed with caution.
Thankfully NHS - National Health Service - has an answer to this predicament of parents: dimeticone. Dr Chris Etheridge with NHS explained: dimeticone acts by coating head lice with a greasy film, thereby suffocating them to their death. However, the drug smells nasty, and needs to be left in the hair for 8 hours! As a result, a lot of parents are turning to essential oils, especially in the light of following discoveries made by different studies.
A study published in the Parasitology Research states that a 1% tea tree oil solution can completely get rid of head lice.
Another study from the BMC Dermatology journal suggests that a combination of tea tree and lavender oil can be more effective in getting rid of head lice than the traditional pyrethrin based products.
BMJ Best Practice, on the other hand, recommends the use of eucalyptus oil in place of malathion (a traditional drug used for head lice treatment).
All the above discoveries testify that: it is absolutely safe - and very effective - to use essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil for head lice treatment for your babies! isn't that great news?
Desperate times call for desperate measure, and it is true that in their desperation parents all across the globe have used countless number of things to treat head lice - some legit, some bizarre! Do you know of any other natural home remedies to get rid of lice fast? Let us know in the comments below!