Lifestyle and home remedies
If you prefer not to use a medication for treating a head-lice infestation, you may consider an alternative home treatment. There is little to no clinical evidence of the effectiveness of such treatments.
Combing wet hair with a fine-toothed nit comb may remove lice and some nits. Studies show that wet-combing results vary.
The hair should be wet, and you should add something to lubricate the hair, such as a hair conditioner or olive oil. Comb the entire head from the scalp to the end of the hair at least twice during a session. The process should be repeated every three to four days for several weeks — at least two weeks after no more lice are found.
Small clinical studies have suggested that some natural plant oils may kill lice by suffocation, but effectiveness is uncertain. These products include:
- Tea tree oil
- Anise oil
- Ylang-ylang oil
These products are not required to meet safety, efficacy and manufacturing standards used for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and can sometimes cause allergic reactions.
A number of household products are used to treat head-lice infestations. These products are thought to deprive the lice of air when generous amounts are applied to the hair, covered with a shower cap and left on overnight. Products used for this purpose include:
- Olive oil
- Margarine or butter
- Petroleum jelly
However, the effectiveness of these treatments is unclear.
Another option is a machine that uses one application of hot air in an attempt to kill head lice and their eggs through dehydration. The machine requires special training and is currently available only at professional lice treatment centers.
The machine uses air that is cooler than most hair dryers and at a much higher flow rate to kill the lice by drying them out. A regular hair dryer should not be used to accomplish this result as it's too hot and could burn the scalp.
Dangerous products to avoid
Flammable products, such as kerosene or gasoline, should never be used to kill lice or to remove nits.
Lice usually don't live past one day without feeding from a human scalp, and eggs do not survive if they aren't incubated at the temperature near the scalp. Therefore, the chance of lice surviving on household items is small.
As a precaution, you may clean items that the affected person has used in the previous two days. Cleaning recommendations include the following:
- Wash items in hot water. Wash bedding, stuffed animals and clothing in hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54.4 C) — and dry at high heat.
- Clean hair care items. Clean combs, brushes and hair accessories by soaking them in hot, soapy water for five to 10 minutes.
- Seal items in plastic bags. Seal items that can’t be washed in plastic bags for two weeks.
- Vacuum. Give the floor and upholstered furniture a good vacuuming.