Treating Head Lice

Parent Q&A

  • Repeated headlice infestations

    (15 replies)

    I’m at my wits end with my kids repeatedly getting headlice - I’m guessing at their BUSD elementary school. We’re on our 4th round since March 2019. Whenever either of my kids gets lice, we do the whole house cleaning thing and running pillow cases and towels through the dryer. We even have our housekeeper doing bed linen laundry now so it’s cleaned even more often - it’s ridiculous. We treat every person with hair in the house with Nix (3 times 7-9 days apart) AND nit comb daily, then every other day, then every 3 days, then weekly after that. Forever. Until I find lice again (~ 2 months later). And then we repeat the cycle. Our only respite has been summer break (in camps - still around tons of kids). One of my kids’ classrooms has been infested all year based on the notes coming home. The other I’m not sure about because I don’t get a notice even when I notify the teacher and room parent that my kid has lice - I assume they’re just not notifying? The whole thing is extremely time consuming (hours of lice combing), expensive (lice shampoos, extra housekeeper time, so much electricity for the dryer), and just frustrating. I’ve tried lice repellents (which I’m pretty sure don’t do anything), repeatedly notifying the school, and I’ve spoken to my pediatrician who basically said keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve told my kids to never share hats or hair products, never put their heads on the rugs and pillows at school, etc. And they’re motivated - they are not fans of the lice combing. What else can we do? Has anyone else experienced this and broken the cycle? 

    RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()


    Sounds like you are all over it!  One area you didn't mention, but probably do, is the car and the car-seats. Bag up all stuffed animals, just leave them there for 3 months. vacuum the mattress.

    Been there, done that.

    RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

    Very short hair does reduce transmission somewhat and makes treatment easier. Do any of your kids still have long hairstyles?  I’d go as short as they can tolerate.  But it sounds like the school should be doing more.  

    RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

    Here's what worked for us - it sounds like you're on the right track: Do a spot check (visual, running your fingers through the hair and especially looking around the nape and ears, or better yet, a combing) on all the kids at least once a week, even if you don't think they're infested/exposed, so you can stay ahead of anything they bring home before it becomes a full-blown infestation. If you get word of a lice outbreak in the classroom from the school or the parent grapevine, inspect them daily. When lice/nits are found, comb with a lice comb twice a day (morning and night). If you're diligent about the combing, you don't even need to use pesticides - really, I've done it. If your kid has longer hair, it might be worth paying for some place like Nit Pixies to do the initial comb-through. I also liked the Robicomb, which zaps the lice (it at least feels satisfying to fry the little buggers), although you still need to use a fine comb, too, to get out the nits. Laundry and vacuuming won't kill lice - bag up and put away anything like pillows and soft toys for a few days, but don't kill yourself cleaning the house. The key to beating them is remembering their limitations and time frame: They can't crawl far, they can't fly or jump; they can't live more than about 3 days off a human head (no other part of the human will do); nits take 6-9 days to hatch. So focus on removing lice from food sources and constantly removing any nits before they hatch, and they won't last long. Good luck - you can do it!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


10-year-old daughter has had head lice for a year

June 2007

My 10-year-old daughter has had head lice for about a year now; she caught them June or July of 2006 from her father's house. I have spent a good $1500 trying to get rid of them over the past year. When I wash her hair, I wash everyone in the households too. I also boil hair brushes and rubber bands on the stove top for 10 minutes, I wash all sheets, comforters, hair scrunchies, and jackets/sweaters in hot water and then dry completely for at least 45 minutes, and I use flea and lice killer, powder for my furniture, mattresses, and carpets then I use the lice killer spray in addition to that. I also bag up all stuffed animals and store them away for at least 60 days. When I wash our hair, I have used Nix, Rid, and even some generic brands. I have also taken her to the doctor and they prescribed body lice cream to use on her hair. Every time I wash, I spend 6-8 hours picking out every dead and live nit (egg). I have even went to the extreme of throwing out perfectly good mattresses and replacing them with new mattresses and box springs...I have also even bombed my house with flea and roach killer bombs. I don't know what else to do; please help! C

I am so sorry to hear you have been going through so much troubles. It's every parents' nightmare. Just curious if you have tried to shave her head? I know it sounds terrible, but I thought if the lice has no hair to live in, then they may go away? no experience so far, and hope never have to

Sounds like although you are being diligent about washing and initial combing, you are still missing at least one nit/egg in her hair -- and that is all it takes to reinfest. Here is what worked for us.

1. Use a metal lice comb -- a plastic comb is not good enought -- and go through the hair small section by small section every night for about 3 weeks. That covers about 2 life cycles and if you miss an egg/nit one night, you should get it the next -- or sometime in the next few weeks. The second time my daughter had lice this is what we did, and I was surprised to still pull out nits after 6 days of combing. It is just difficult to see them and pull them out when freshly laid and the eggs are so small and near the scalp especially in very thick hair.

2. Try LiceRGone, available on the internet at . It is an enzyme shampoo, similar to meat tenderizer, and apparently loosens the glue that holds eggs/nits to the hair shaft. In addition to shampooing, I put some in a spray bottle with water and sprayed my daughter's hair whle using the lice comb to help loosen eggs/nits.

3. Make sure the parents of your daughter's friends are checking their kids hair. Even if your daughter is lice free she can be easily re-infested by friends...I am convinced it is the girls putting their heads together while they play.

Good luck! Susan

You might try . They are service which manually picks out the lice and nits for a fee. My daughter and I got lice and we went twice since it's almost impossible to get every one), you need to get a recheck about 7 days later. And possibly again. They sell a great comb you can use to check the hair yourself. I watched how they did it and have checked my daughter's hair several times. We did find a few 1 or 2 nits several weeks later. And another one a week or so later. You have to be diligent and keep checking and removing the nits. The lice your daughter has must be resistent to the chemicals. I would STOP using chemicals. It is not helping and may be harming your daughter. The only sure way is manual removal. And you just have to keep on top of it and check every few days for months. See for more information about chemicals etc. Anon

We used the following herbal recipe that someone passed on to me for resistant lice. Our situation was not as extreme as yours. I really feel terrible for you. Hope this works. FYI - - some people might recommend using tea tree oil shampoo as a follow up. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in February 2007, however, that tea tree oil shampoos were found to cause breast development in pre-pubescent boys so I would be careful about that one. Good luck to you!
Herb Treat for Lice** \tWith the recent head lice alert, this is a timely news bulletin and bit of helpful advice. Word has it that lately all the treatments for head lice (Nix, Step 2, Quell) are not working. This comes from a parent, an advice nurse at Kaiser, and a pediatrician nurse at Kaiser; the latter says she is looking into the possibility of Kaiser recommending an herbal treatment. \tThe parent mentioned above used an herbal treatment which did work. The recipe is below: \t\xbd teaspoon rosemary oil \t\xbd teaspoon pennyroyal oil \t\xbd teaspoon eucalyptus oil \t8 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil Mix the herbal oils into the olive oil. Test the mixture on the inside of your wrist; it should tingle but not burn. Shampoo the hair with as hot water as possible. Comb the oil mixture into the hair (children with long hair may need the whole amount - those with short hair probably won't use that much.) Wrap in a bandana or a terrycloth showercap, and leave on overnight. Shampoo the next morning. Oils can be purchased at the Food Mill on MacArthur or Lakeshore Health Food Store.

**Bentley School Newsletter anon

You have my sympathy, it sounds like you've been through hell. But you do not need to use flea bombs and flea powder and all that stuff -- lice cannot live off a human host for very long. I have recommended it before, and I will recommend it again -- use the lice program:

It is a very simple combing program. It involves no chemicals. It works. I know dozens of people who have been desperate with reinfestations and have used this program successfully.

A few tips. Hair should be wet when you comb, and conditioner or oil will make combing easier and slow down the lice. Wipe the comb after every pass, and drop the live lice in a bowl of soapy water. If, like me, you have middle aged eyesight, get yourself a pair of magnifying reading glasses from the pharmacy and a head-lamp (a flashlight you wear on your head) for good lighting. Set up a video or a story on tape to keep your kid occupied while you do a thorough combing. It's possible to comb yourself (I did), but it's better if someone else can comb you. My husband was out of town for part of our lice treatment period, but another mom at my son's school checked me. Ask friends if you need to.

I also cut about six inches off my hair to make it easier to comb. With all you've been through, it might be time for some drastic haircuts for everyone. Only a complete shave will get rid of the lice completely, but shorter hair is easier to comb.

When it comes to cleaning the environment, this is a one day chore. Yes, bag up pillows and stuffies for 48 hours. That's all you need to do. Yes, vacuum rugs, upholstered furniture, car seats, head rests. This is probably overkill, but better safe than sorry. Wash and dry bedding and PJs and recently worn clothes in HOT water and HOT dryer, bearing in mind that lice cannot live off a human host for more than 48 hours.

That's it. If you follow the combing method correctly, you will have no laying lice on your child's head or yours within the first week, perhaps within the first day. Once you've reached that stage, you will not have to worry about lice in the environment, you simply have to keep combing according to the schedule. Make sure to comb EVERY person in your household. You may have lice too -- in our family, every person was infested within a week. It is far more likely that you are getting lice from each other than that you are getting it from the mattress.

Good luck! lice expert

go here:

the hair dryer method (heat kills the lice) combined with cetaphil gentle cleanser really worked for us. the key was going back and doing their prescribed treatment on days 1, 7, 14 and 21 . And for really tought outbreaks I treated a few nights the first week and then on the other prescribed nights. That way anything that hatches dies :-)

This method kills the lice better than the toxic stuff. been there

As crazy as it sounds- In my younger days, I used the flea and tick shampoo that's supposed to be for dogs- it worked. I think the residual action helped:) anon

My kids both had lice this spring. Their hair is long and thick - we did the shampoo which killed the live lice, but could not get all the eggs/nits out, even with a good comb. In desperation, we took them to Lice Control in Castro Valley which does the nit removal for you - costs $$ but so worth it. They have a website and I highly recommend them: . Of course one other option is to cut all the hair off so it's almost impossible for the lice to want to attach themselves. However, if a house where your child goes frequently is infested there is only so much you can do. You may need to limit the child's access to the people who are transmitting it until you know they are clean too. tired of lice too

First of all, the use of pesticides like Rid or Nix are not very effective anymore. Most lice have become immune to the poison from overuse. And the poison usually does not kill eggs. Repeated use of these toxic chemicals on your daughter can be dangerous for her health.

It sounds like you're not getting all the nits out of her hair. It also sounds like she is getting re-infested. Have you checked everyone in your family including your own hair? Once head lice enters the household, every member of the family has to be checked on a daily basis and treated properly when lice are found. What about your daughter's school, friends, etc? Are they having troubles with lice too? If they are, your daughter might be getting re-exposed over and over again. Make sure your daughter doesn't share hats, clothes, scarfs, combs or brushes with other kids, especially if you know there is a lice problem at her school or friend's house.

The best non-toxic way to remove lice and nits from hair is a combination of suffocating the lice with olive oil or some other vegitable oil, and combing the hair with a really good lice comb. Use a metal lice comb with very thin and close together tines. Do not use a plastic lice comb. I've read they do not work very well as their tines are not close together enough and they miss a lot of the nits.

Soak the hair with a lot of olive or vegitable oil. Wrap the head in plasic wrap or a shower cap and leave it on for at least several hours. Some even leave it on over night, although this is not recommended for small children as they may accidentally suffocate themselves in the plastic. Some use olive oil mixed with tea tree oil or castille soap. After the hair has soaked, you begin the combing process. Some wash the hair before combing, however oil left in the hair makes the combing easier. Carefully comb small sections of the hair with a metal lice comb to remove all the nits and dead lice. Rinse the comb in hot soapy water and wipe off the lice debris on a paper towel as you comb. Keep combing, rinsing and wiping. Do not run the comb through the hair without rinsing & wiping first, or you will re-apply nits and lice back into the hair. Once you finish combing all the hair and you think you got all the nits and lice out, shampoo & dry the hair with a blow dryer. Re-check the hair carefully for any missed nits or lice. If any are found, remove them with the comb and your fingers. Wash and check your daughter's hair DAILY. Repeat the oil suffocation and lice combing every few days or as soon as you find more lice or nits.
Best of luck! Anon

I really feel for you. You must be going crazy. It sounds like you've gone to a lot of extremes, but the one thing that will make all the difference is consistent combing. There is a great website that gives you a ''program'' to follow and lots of advice and encouragement: I really recommend it. The ''program'' is combing only, but I also used the shampoos in addition. The key is to be consistent and make sure that you are not letting some hide out to re-infest (i.e. you get them all off your daughter's head one day but don't get them off your own hair or the sheets until the next day). It also sounds like she could be getting re-infested. I would comb through her hair every day when she comes home to see if she could be picking them up somewhere. Good luck! --have had my sanity threatend by lice once or twice

From a previous posting: ''The New England Journal of Medicine reported in February 2007, however, that tea tree oil shampoos were found to cause breast development in pre-pubescent boys so I would be careful about that one.''

AAAAAA! This is NOT true. I've posted before about this misconception (a long involved message; i'll spare you this time). That paper got a lot of press, but really did NOT demonstrate a link between tea tree oil shampoo and breast development. It's a little shocking it got published at all, because there was no there there--enough for the authors to ask for funding to do a real study, but no more. Find the paper and read it critically! Don't believe bad science journalism

I have soaked a hair with louse nit on it in 1 inch of olive oil for three dfays, and it still hatched (then drowned in olive oil). In my experience, olive oil soaks on the hair don't work too well. You HAVE to manually remove the nits, check all of the hair, section by section, every day, until you have no nits at all (not even one or two for five days in a raow. It gets quicker as there are less nits each day. I've used the nits comb on seen the nits that I identified STILL there, right after I pulled the nit comb through that section of hair. (the usual nit combs from Long's etc.) I also have soaked a hair with nit in mayonaise for eight hourse, and dropped a LOT of nits in the mayonaise a week ago, and so far none have hatched. In my experience, mayonaise, thickly lathered on, then plastic bag (how can they choke in it? It doesn't go under their chin! it sometimes slides off), extra towel on pillow case, wash out next day (may need to use dishwash or organic clothese detergent to get all the oils out) works. Then manually check and pull out nits, and put them in hot water or such and throw through toilet or such. Also, I heard just drying bedclothes etc. on hot, not also laundering, is all you need to do! makes a lot of sense to me, as heat is proven to destroy them. No to toxic shampoos that don't work much for me. lice free!

Is there an effective way to treat head lice?

Nov. 2006

Hello there, I'm researching information about head lice treatment. Is there an effective way to treat head lice? I heard of the product called Licekiller by Access Nutraceuticals. They offer all kinds of products -- Nit Glue Dissolver, Lice Killer, Lice Repellant. Do they really work? Does anyone have experience with these products? Any other non-toxic products? Any additional information/experience you can share will be greatly appreciated Anonymous

Having been through two episodes of lice, and having just gone through a massive head lice epidemic at my child's school, I feel compelled to answer your question.

First the bad news: There is no ''product,'' natural or otherwise, that will get rid of lice, prevent eggs from hatching, or otherwise make your child lice free.

Now the good news: there is a surefire method for getting rid of lice and it is completely non-toxic. It's called combing, and you will need to do it on a near-daily basis for three weeks to ensure that you have combed out all the adult lice who lay eggs, and then all the newly hatched lice BEFORE they grow up to be adult layers.

It seems like a pain in the butt, and it is at first. But it's also extrememly effective and once you get the hang of it it's pretty quick and simple.

Do not believe anyone who tells you that any product works to kill lice or de-glue their eggs. It's balderdash. Even the most toxic products don't kill the eggs, and they often don't kill the lice either which have become immune to many treatments. I know far too many parents who thought a simple shampoo treatment would do the trick, and then ended up with an ongoing lice infestation that ended up spreading to others.

Once you start combing, you will eliminate the layers and your child will no longer be contagious.

Here is a website that will guide you through the combing process. I worship whoever designed this program, as we were, as a family, infested when we started. We never had a recurrence (Although we did get lice again a year later), and we never infected anyone else.

Follow these instructions to the letter and you will be lice free.
Lice Veteran

The most important thing about head lice treatments is consistantly picking the nits out.

If you look on line there is a website that has a very funny video and treatment for an olive oil treatment for head lice. It explains the life cycle of the louse and nit and you can understand from this why consistancy is so important.

The olive oil treatment is: soak the head in olive oil.Put a plastic bag or shower cap on (you can hold it on with a clothespin. Keep it on for 8 hours (over night). In the AM, over the sink (not in the shower) comb the nits out first with a nit comb and a magnifying glass. THEN wash the hair. Every morning again, look for nits. Every 3 days do the treatment again for 3 weeks. This worked totally for us and we've never had lice again (knock on wood). Weather you do olive oil, other alternative treatments or the chemical treatments the key is consistantly getting the nits out. Good luck. It's a pain but worth doing properly been there

I heard a show on KPFA a show on KPFA about natural ways to get rid of pests. He said that lice can't live above 105 degrees. Therefore, the thing to do is to go to a sauna and stay in there for five minutes or more. We never had lice after that so I didn't have the opportunity to try it. Leah

My eight year old daughter came home with head lice this summer. It totally freaked us out and we rushed to the local drug store and the pharmacist recommended a topical lotion to be applied to her hair.Forget its name but hte bottle says '' recommended by pediatrician'' or something like that. But this did not work as the local lice has apparently developed an immunity to it. Then we got the lice comb (found in Walgreens), boy, that worked like magic, in a few days we had eradicated this problem. This comb was amazing and it cost maybe $30 and you do not have to subject your child to chemicals. good luck! chris

I have heard wonderful things about Tea Tree oil, but (thank God) have not yet had the chance to try it out kevin

There is a lot of good information on the internet if you google ''headlice''. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has a good Fact Sheet here: and there is a good science-based FAQ at

The recommendation is to shampoo hair with an over the counter headlice shampoo you can get at the drugstore and then comb out the nits. We used a metal flea comb from the pet store. Comb your child's hair religiously. Other treatments that people recommend such as various kinds of oils have not been shown to work (see the Harvard article). Putting olive oil or tea oil on your child's head does make the combing easier but it doesn't kill lice. In some neighborhoods, headlice may be resistant to the shampoos. There is info about what what to about this on the websites above.

Head lice infestations happen, even at the ''best'' schools. According to the CDC: ''Preschool and elementary-age children, 3-11, and their families are infested most often. Girls get head lice more often than boys, women more than men. In the United States, African-Americans rarely get head lice. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.'' Good luck!

We all had head lice when our kids were in preschool, and one of the things that really helped was putting olive oil all over our heads and then wrapping them in saran wrap over night. It suffocates the lice. We tried everything, and that actually worked. good luck! anon

Many of the responses are correct about head lice. When dealing with lice, you must have a lice comb that really works. A good tool as in any industry will go along way. also, a good product, good lighting and patience. Keep it simple. comb not only thoroughly but properly. THEN, go through by hand. If the comb will not grab the egg the first time, it most of the time, will not grab it the second or third time. apply product last.Natural products are great and do work, but only a a few. There's details to the process that matter if you want your treatment to work. Remember, just because someone got rid of their lice using some other type of method(s) may have gotten lucky. We use natural products and do everything that has been been clinically tested and is tried and true to work! We are more than happy to advise or help with your head lice problem.

How-To Video about Treating Head Lice?

Nov. 2004

Some children in my son's class keep getting/spreading head lice. Seems to me that we are notALL ridding our homes, classroom, kids of lice completely. A few years ago someone gave me a really wonderful video about treating head lice with olive oil. This was a very funny and informative video done by one person (a man) dressed as and portraying the mom, female teacher, dad and school(female) principal. It was very well done and extremeley informative. We used this olive oil treatment (3 weeks dilligently) and never saw lice in our midst again. Unfortunately the person who gave me the video can't find it and I can't remember the exact info. Anyone know what I'm talking about or know this olive oil treatment? We all know that you have to be dilligent about picking the nits but the olive oil suffocates the freshly hatched nits which is an important part of lice ridding. Thanks for any info or help. so far, not itchy mom

The video you are looking for, on treating head lice with olive oil (to smother them after they hatch) can be ordered online from> . I highly recommend this video, entitled ''Head Lice to Dead Lice,'' and the book of the same name, by Joan Sawyer and Roberta MacPhee. The video is informative and hilarious -- good medicine for both people who are discouraged from failing treatments and those who refuse to deal with the problem.

FYI, in my experience, conditioner can be used instead of olive oil. It stuns lice for 20 minutes, during which they are easily combed out. See for more info.

Whatever you do, there is no magic solution, since our local lice have become resistent to Nix and Ridd. Better to go non-toxic, and take the time required to eradicate and then avoid reinfection. deb

I'm the person who wrote asking about the head lice video.... My neighbors found the video, and I also discovered the website... The name of the video is ''Head Lice to Dead Lice'', and the website is Check it out....the site gives a lot of good info as well as a way to order the video and lice/nit kit. This process REALLY, REALLY works. still not itchy mom

Getting school to deal with headlice

Nov. 2003

I am hoping someone can report on a succesful effort to get a school to take headlice infestations seriously. My daughter has missed three days of school this year because of headlice (and I the same days of work). The school has a shockingly casual attitude about notifying parents of outbreaks. I called the office on Friday morning to report that my child was infected, yet no notice went home to classmates' families (let alone to other classes with whom she had contact at recess) until Tuesday. When I spoke to the principal about this, he passed the blame onto the overworked office staff and said ''things were crazy'' last Friday because it was Halloween. On Tuesday, in class, my child's teacher mocked a note I sent explaining that I wanted my child to wear a headscarf in class for a few days to minimize chances of reinfestation. The teacher also told my daughter that the lice are coming from our afterschool facility - - which is highly unlikely, since headchecks are required and regular there. As far as I know, the school does no head checks, presumably because there is no school nurse. I realize the Oakland school district is in dire financial straits and there are many more worthy programs than can be funded. However, according to everything I've read, the only way to manage headlice effectively is regular headchecks and manual removal of lice and nits. If the school won't do this and is lax in notifying parents, the problem continues, gets worse and children lose valuable instruction time while being kept home for lice treatment.

I would deeply appreciate suggestions as to how to galvanize the school to take responsible action; also, if there are any legal requirements (relating perhaps to public health) for the school or the district to do more, please let me know. Tired of nit-picking

Read what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about headlice. Headlice pose no medical danger, they are just disgusting. The AAP feels no child should miss school or be isolated because of an outbreak, and they also feel that regular headlice checks done by schools are not effective, as they often miss real infestations, and send kids home who only have dandruff flakes. p> In other words, having the school do checks won't really solve the problem. Kids get lice, and chances are by the time it is found, they've had it for weeks, and tracing back to how they got it is probably impossible. I think the only real answer is to be vigilant at home, teach our kids how to avoid getting and spreading it (keep heads apart, keep hair tied up, don't share hats or hairbrushes, etc.) and treat it effectively if and when it happens in our home. been there

Have you said what you just said here to the principal? Also, you could talk with the PTA prez. Schools that get 98% attendance this year get all thier funding for next year (or something like that; the new state administrator is really big on attendance), so I'm sure the school is very interested in this. In fact, I know they are because they just said something about it in the weekley bulletin. And maybe it really was a crazy week, and now you can go back to him with your concerns. If that doesn't work, try the PTA. That is sort of what they are there for, right? Another parent

I do training on headlice at work, as part of general safety. Though it is not a safety hazard, many persons are concerned and not sure what to do if they get head lice, so we put together this training information: FACTS ABOUT HEAD LICE Head lice are parasitic insects. They live on the scalp and hair of the head. Lice do not jump or fly, but they can crawl quickly. Having head lice is very common; as many as 6-12 million people worldwide get head lice each year. Anyone can get head lice \x96 it does not matter whether a person is young or old, dirty or clean, rich or poor. Contrary to the popular belief that lack of cleanliness causes head lice, head lice actually prefer clean scalps! HEAD LICE INFECTION How can you get head lice? Preschool and elementary-age children, 3-10, and their families are infested most often. However, anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has head lice, contaminated clothing, and other belongings can be infected. The most common ways to get head lice are: - Direct contact with a person who has head lice \x96 head to head contact. - Direct contact with items that have been in contact with an infested person, such as upholstered furniture, car seats, and chairs. - Using infested clothing, such as hats, head bands, scarves, coats, sweaters, and work uniforms. - Using infested combs, brushes, pillows or towels. - Head lice can also be spread in shared lockers and coat racks if you put your clothes onto infected clothing. What are the signs and symptoms of head lice infestation? - Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair. - Itching or rash on the head or neck, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites. - Scalp irritability. - Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores sometimes become infected. - Nits visible on the hair strands. - If you are not sure whether or not you have head lice, a health care provider should make the diagnosis. Where are head lice commonly found? On the scalp, behind the ears, and near the neckline at the back of the neck. Head lice hold on to hair with hook-like claws found at the end of their six legs. Head lice are rarely found on the body, eyelashes, or eyebrows. HEAD LICE REMOVAL As soon as head lice are found, it should be treated immediately because they spread so quickly. Treatment means: shampooing, removing all nits, and cleaning things the person has used, worn or come into close contact with. Shampooing There are a number of medicated shampoos that can be used to get rid of head lice. Permethrin-based shampoos are best. Some of these shampoos you can buy over the counter, and some must be ordered by a doctor. You must use one of these special head lice shampoos. Washing with regular shampoo will not get rid of head lice. Before using any of these head lice shampoos, read all the directions and follow them exactly. Consult with a health care provider if you have allergies, asthma, epilepsy, pregnant, nursing, or treating an infant. Removing all nits This will take time but you must do it if you want to get rid of the head lice. Just shampooing is not enough, as it will not kill or remove all the nits. You can remove nits with a special nit comb \x96 the metal combs are best \x96 or with your fingers. Nit combing is easier if the hair is dry or slightly damp. Work in a well-lit area and work through a small section of hair at a time so you don\x92t miss any nits. After the shampoo and nit removal, check the infected person\x92s head every day for at least 10 days. If there are more signs of head lice or nits, you will have to treat again. Shampooing itself may cause itching, so only retreat if you see additional nits. Cleaning Clean everything that has been in contact with the head and neck of the person with head lice. These things may have lice or nits on them. If these items are not cleaned well, the head lice will return and continue to re-infect. - Combs, brushes, and hair accessories: Clean with any remaining medicated shampoo. Follow directions listed on the container. - Washable items: Wash in hot water (at least 130 \xbaF) and dry in a hot dryer (20-40 minutes). - Clothing that cannot be washed: Bag these items and have them dry-cleaned. - Non-washable, non dry-clean items, upholstered furniture, floors, and rugs: Vacuum well. For furniture, vacuum cushions and all corners and folds. Do not leave the vacuum bag in the vacuum cleaner. Seal and discard the vacuum bag after use. - Small non-washable items: Store in a tightly sealed plastic bag for at least 14 days. - Metal, plastic, and other washable surfaces: Wash with a bleach and water solution. Mix 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water. There is no need to have your home or work area fumigated for lice. Spraying or fumigating in some cases can be harmful to co- workers, small children, and pets. Careful cleaning and vacuuming of the area is the most important way to prevent re- infection. RESOURCES: U.S. Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control / Baltimore County, Maryland, Department of Health / National Science Teachers Association, Sci Links


I just wanted to respond to a recent answer posted about headlice. While I am sure the information was accurate, I take exception to the use of the term ''medicated shampoo''. Face it - these are PESTICIDES we are putting on our kids' hair, often leaving far longer than recommended. I have had luck with one of the enzyme-based treatments, but even with the pesticides, you might not kill all the lice and nits. Whatever you use, you have to thouroughly and repeatedly comb through with an effective nit comb. Wet-combing with a nit comb has also been shown to be a better screening tool than visual screening. Also, I have found that while most descriptions say the lice and nits are light colored, in my dark-haired kids they seem dark. Nit Picker


I wanted to make my strongest ever recommendation for parents to get hold of an electric lice comb instead of chemicals for treating kids' head lice problems.

I recently had a conversation with a school teacher who was complaining about the problems they have with head lice. Sometimes kids are out of school for weeks or months trying to deal with it. She had never heard of my favorite treatment, which seems to be little known in Berkeley. My comb was bought overseas, so I went hunting on the web for her.

This website has all the details you'd ever need on the subject of the Robi Comb - They cost $25.95 online. Many schools and PTAs appear to have bought them for bulk use at schools as well as private use at home. Kids can use them daily without much parent help, and the cost efficiency compared to chemical treatments adds up really quickly. Fiona

7-year-old has head lice infestation


I seem to remember reading a discussion about the treatment of head lice on this digest, but I've looked back on my saved ones (thru last July) & can't find it. I remember thinking Boy, I'm glad I don't have to deal with that! Well, guess what ... now I'm trying to remember what people said because I'm very unhappy with putting poison on my children's heads (the currently infested one is a 7-year old with thick hair down to the middle of her waist, but I also have a toddler who should probably be treated too), but I also can't imagine getting every one of these practically microscopic bugs out with a comb. And how on earth do you wash everything your kids touch with their heads? If someone can tell me where the previous discussion was I'd appreciate it. Or maybe this topic could be posted again? Thanks. Melinda

From: Christina

Welcome to head lice hell!

I found that Daniel Wilson, the Vector Control guy for Alameda County (567-6828) has really sensible and good information. You may want to call him.

Here are what tips I know ---

Buy Nix -- the other kinds are worthless. Also buy some Prell and an Innomed lice comb, which you can get at the Solano Ave. Pharmacy. These are the essential items.

Wash hair first with Prell. Other shampoos actually have things in them (creme rinse things, etc.) which coat the nits and protect them from the Nix. The wash with Nix and let it sit for 20 minutes, then rinse it out.

Then comb every square inch of your kids head, no latter how painful and horrendous. No lice shampoo is 100 per cent effective against nits, so if you don't get rid of them, some will hatch and you will be doing this all over again. (The innomed comb is essential -- the comb in the Nix box is a piece of crap.) Try to do this in daylight, so you can see the nits.

Wash all her clothes and bedding in hot water. Things you can't wash (like pillows), put in the dryer for about 20 minutes. Pour boiling water over all hair brushes. Vacuum your house well, including the couch and the car.

Check your toddler now. You have to do everyone at once, otherwise they keep infecting each other.

It really is hell, and you'll probably have to repeat all this about three times to get them all, so keep checking you kids' hair.

Try to get the school on top of it, and instituting regular lice checks. Obviously, it doesn't help if you get rid of them only to be reinfected each time your kid goes to school.

It is sort of unnerving to be putting insecticide on your kid's head. According to Daniel Wilson, the rate of absortion of the poison through skin is pretty low, so it is in theory pretty safe. If you are completely opposed to it, though, I have heard that covering the child's head completely with vaseline, and leaving it on overnight (under a shower cap) also works. Apparently this suffocates the lice and the nits. I guess the problem here is getting it all out again. And you'd still want to wash all clothes and linens and vacuum thoroughly.

It really is awful, and the most horrible part is that it will probably happen again.

Best of luck ---


From: Tamara

We had 4 Nix failures. At first it's hard to tell because you don't know if it was a treatment failure or your child became reinfested because of contact. Children put their heads together a lot at school/childcare, and it's impossible to have them do otherwise. I finally went on the Internet and discovered that many other parents had experienced Nix failures and found herbal/natural treatments to work better.

Current Western medicine method is quicker but utilizes chemicals that are becoming ineffective. A Kaiser advice nurse actually said to leave it on all night (Nix itself says no longer than 10 minutes). They also have side effects, such as reactions in asthmatic children (don't use Rid for them). And they are very expensive. We spent $100 in 4 Nix treatments for our family ($19.95 for 3). Laundry costs mount up.

In desperation and exhaustion, I searched the Internet: olive oil or baby oil on dry hair until it's drenched under a shower cap for 1 hour. It worked for us. Then follow it up with daily washings of tea tree oil shampoo. One can get tea tree oil from Body Time. Some people have had good results with using just the tea tree oil, but I was not able to locate dosage/method information. You can get the shampoo from many health food stores. Bryl cream also works well, I've heard. The idea is that the lice are smothered to death. Only side effect of this method is that hair stays somewhat oily for about a week. One Internet person said they did this treatment daily (oil under the shower cap) for 1 week and all lice were gone. My child has length waist hair and I did it three times over a week's period -- and did it again at week 2. Worked! Keeping my child's hair braided also helped reduce reinfestation.

Convention says the whole family has to do it at the same time because you might get rid of it in one child and then the other was infested just prior to treatment, and it gets passed back and forth. From first hand experience, I find the oil treatment to be far superior to various pesticide products -- tried 3 brands over the years. A great deterrent is hair dryers.

I don't think nit combs do the job. They are ultimately best removed one at a time (fingernails help) by checking through the hair daily for a couple of weeks. Halogen lights are a good aid. Schools tend to require nit-free hair (even though once they are longer than 1/2 from the scalp they aren't viable) because they don't want to be responsible for making a mistake in measuring and a nit free policy is easier for them. But I have been called because one long-gone nit was was found and had to take my child home -- it's a nuisance but in the long run probably the only way schools can deal with it.

A great deterrent is using a hair dryer! Good luck, Tamara

Continuing to find lice nits

Sept 2000

For veterans of the lice wars, here is my question: am I doing too little or too much? I have seen no evidence of adult lice in my daugher's hair (ie no hatched nits, easy to see on dark hair) since school started, but I keep coming up with eggs every time I use a lice comb on her, despite having a good lice comb and trying to be thorough. Not many, and (I think) fewer every time--but still, they are there.

Because I read that the shampoos don't kill about 30% of the eggs --those in the first 4 days of existance--I have been putting a heavy conditioner on her hair at night (kolesterol--thicker than mayonnaise) every 2-3 days & having her sleep with shower cap. Because of the nits I find in the morning after she rinses, I have also been using Nix weekly for at least three weeks. Seems longer; maybe it has been. Every time I do either treatment I boil her combs, change her sheets, vacuum the bed & car seat, and freeze or hot-water wash everything I know comes in contact with her head. I have not taken away all her toys & treated them, however, and I may have missed a few of her shirts when washing with hot water.

I don't even know if the smothering technique affects the eggs. (although of course it helps get them out & her hair is actually in gorgeous shape from all the conditioner). Shouldn't they all be dead? Should I be worried about her toys if I haven't seen evidence of live lice? This is driving me crazy. Any suggestions would be welcome. Mary Ann

I struggled with getting rid of lice on my daughter's head for months when she was in second grade. A group of parents met with a public health nurse who was a lice specialist, and one thing she told us was that smothering them was impossible. You can't smother an egg, and entomologists she consulted with said the bugs can go long periods (days, weeks?) without air. She pretty much acknowledged that Nix & Rid are useless, since the local lice are immune to them. Her only recommendation was manual removal (nitpicking). Since soap and water don't kill lice or nits, there is no point in washing clothes and bedding, instead just throw them in a hot dryer for 30 minutes & lice & nits will be killed. What finally worked for us was tea tree oil. I know some people say this is a myth, but after washing my daughter's hair with tea tree oil shampoo & saturating her hair with tea tree oil conditioner, I combed out dead and dying lice. I would keep finding a few eggs every day for about a week, but I think they were just ones I hadn't seen before in her very thick hair. I had the best nit comb too, but I found that it was only useful for combing out dead bugs, the eggs were too tightly glued to the hair shaft to be combed out, so I scraped them off with my fingernail one by one. To protect her from reinfestation, I sprayed her hair every day with tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and geranium oil mixed in water. The bugs apparently don't like these scents. She hasn't had lice again in two years. Melinda

To Mary Ann regarding the lice nits:

My kids and I were infested a few years ago and the whole thing was very stressful. I considered shredding all our belongings because none of the stuff was working and all I did was laundry, spray stuff, comb hair, pick nits and go to work. I'd get to work and the baby sitter would call me to get my son, because he still had nits.

As I understand it, the eggs may be dead, if they are white. Once the creature develops inside, it turns brown. Anyway, you're doing enough. I found that Nix is the best. The lice shouldn't be in her toys unless they are stuffed animals. Then just bag them for a few weeks.

I don't know about the hair conditioner.

I've had good success with an electric lice comb, since my family resented having smelly stuff dumped all over them whenever the school had a lice scare, and are already prone to other scalp and dry skin problems. It's fairly expensive, but cheaper than four or five rounds of chemicals. I don't see an easy way of controlling the child's mother's actions, but the electric system is a quick and non-invasive method that kids can use on themselves, on a regular basis, if that's what you're stuck with. It can be used on an unlimited number of people, you just have to clean it between goes (that's rather fiddly) and buy batteries occasionally.

Another tip on lice: When we were faced with re-infection, one thing that seemed to work was to rotate the various anti-lice products. Using any one product repeatedly in a short period of time would certainly tend to create resistant bugs. We figured if we hit them with different products in series, we would be less likely to create resistance, and more likely to get all the bugs, even if it took a while. So we washed every week or 10 days using first Nix, then Rid, then Qwell (the prescription stuff). I have long hair (down to my waist, which took me 13 years to grow), so I was *very* motivated to get this taken care of without resorting to cutting it short, and it was absolutely impractical to pick all the nits out by hand. Rotating the various products did seem effective. Also, remember to spray your car headrests!!! Good luck! Dawn

Stepdaughter comes back from her mom's with lice

Sept 2000

I have a problem that I hope I can get help with. My stepdaughter lives with us but visits her mother every weekend. I don't mind that she visits her as I think it important that she remain close to her. However, I have a problem with these visits as she comes back with lice. I know the lice problem has been addressed extensively in this guide, but I don't want any advice on how to get rid of them as I have PhD in it now from all the hours that I have spent cleaning out her head and all the methods that I have tried. The problem is that her mother refuses to do anything about the problem with her other 2 children, not my husbands. My stepdaughter is now 10 years old and this has been an on-going problem since she was about a year old. I have been in her life since age 3 and have cleaned her since then. Talking to her mother only serves to aggravate me, and my husband is tired of talking to her as it seems to serve no purpose. I have been very patient in the cleaning and have even sent shampoo, Rid, Tea Tree Oil, etc. to her mother, but to no avail. At 10 years old, my stepdaughter is now embarrassed and wants no one to know (my in-laws were here visiting for months and I had to hide to clean her in my own home). Yesterday, I came home to discover that my 1-year old has now been infected. I don't know what to do as the only alternative is to not send her to her mother's home. However, I see this as punishment for my stepdaughter as she really looks forward to these visits. Can anyone give me any advice? Do I have any recourse?

That's a tough one. My kids had head lice off and on throughout grade school, and were reinfected repeatedly by a particular friend. It's embarrassing. Your head lice problem probably would go away if visits to the mother's house were halted, but this seems too extreme a remedy and you are right that your daughter would probably see it as a punishment. Instead I would focus on things your daughter can do for herself to prevent reinfestation. Ten is old enough to take on some reponsibility, such as laundering bed linens at her mom's house, shampooing when she is there and then combing out with a flea comb, maybe even helping the other kids at her mom's do some basic prevention. She could put it as a problem *SHE* is having, rather than a problem her mother has. Treat it matter-of-factly and see what ideas she has for when she is at her mom's. You definitely don't want to be in the position of being the 'Mom Who Knows How teaching the Clueless Mom (her mother) how to parent. So it will be a tricky balancing act, and if all else fails, in the end you might have to just live with the head lice in order to keep peace in the family. Good luck. Ginger

If the aim is to get the mother to get rid of the lice from her kids and house, a call to the other children's school to report infestation or to ask them to check the children may achieve the desired result. (My daughter came home with lice after an overnight at so-and-so's house. Would you please check them?) Children are usually not permitted to return to school until nits are gone. If they are repeatedly excluded for extended periods it will be inconvenient for the family and may become a concern with the administration. On the other hand, I wonder if there is more going on than one can tell from this post, because it's hard to imagine an infested household where the parent wouldn't want to take care of the problem, or where the school would not have picked up on it over such a long period. [btw, metal cat flea combs work better than those designed for humans, at least on fine hair.]

Oh, I feel for you! It seems a pesky problem, if you'll pardon the pun! A few things come to mind for me: 1) shave your daughter's head or cut her hair VERY short (I know, it seems extreme, but so does forbidding her to visit her mother)--the bugs don't like to live in very short hair, and they are of course easier to spot that way. 2) send your OWN pillows and bedding with her, which you immediately put through the treatment as soon as she arrives home (and of course make sure she *never* uses one of their combs or whatever). 3) someone on this list a while back suggested a rosemary rinse as a lice *deterrent*. The idea is you boil rosemary, strain out the leaves, cool it, and then use the water as a final rinse in the hair after shampoo and conditioner. The bugs supposedly don't like the smell and avoid running into such treated hair. 4) you can get shampoo and conditioner at Whole Foods that has rosemary, tea tree oil, and other herbs in it. Using this stuff exclusively might also serve as a deterrent to the lice. Good luck! Dawn

To the parent whose child w/waist-lengh hair gets headlice when visiting her birth mother, how about requiring her to put her hair up on her head and wear a kerchief, turban or cap over it everytime she goes? The headgear goes in the (hot water)wash or freezer as soon as she come home.

Parenthetically, the mom may not always be the culprit. Head lice are a huge problem now even in exclusive private schools --and your daughter is a natural target if she wears her hair down --it touches every chair and every desk she sits in, and probably alot of her schoolmates too. If she is not telling her friends and you are not telling the school, she may be part of the problem--could even be re-infecting herself. My own daughter had lots of exposures, but no lice until she let her hair grow. How about promising her an attractive short haircut? Mary Ann

I would also recommend getting your daughter several nice hats to wear at her moms house. The hat deterrent works pretty good if you tuck the hair inside. Beth