Like dandruff, a lice infestation is one of those unfortunate occurrences in our lives that many people believe is a result of having poor personal hygiene.
This is why we are often too embarrassed to let anyone – including those close to us – know we have a lice infestation problem.
Lice infestation on the human body is a common occurrence in society. It affects everyone irrespective of race, gender, nationality, social class, etc.
Nobody is immune to a lice infestation unless preventive measures are observed to significantly reduce the chances of contracting it.
What are lice?
Lice are tiny wingless parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They are passed from person to person through close personal contact and the sharing of personal items.
There are three types of lice that affect the human body. They are:
- Head lice – they feed on the blood from the scalp and can be seen on the nape of the neck and around the ears.
- Body lice – they usually live on your clothes/bedding and often move to the skin to feed.
- Pubic lice – they are most found on the skin and hair of the pubic area and less on the chest hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.
The symptoms of lice infestation are most obvious in late stages not early stages of infestation. Its common signs include:
- Intense itching – the symptom I hate the most
- Tiny tickling feeling like something is moving on your scalp or moving your hair slowly
- Bite marks on the skin – can be seen mostly where there is no hair
It is good to understand its behavior to protect ourselves better.
- Lice are most commonly found on children probably because it is easier to spread among them as they tend to play in close contact and in groups.
- These parasites do not fly rather, they crawl from one person to another
- They tend to die within 1-2 days once they leave the human body – they cannot survive without a human host
- They come in many colors such as, white, black, brown etc.
- The type of lice that affects human beings cannot be contracted from pet or an animal. They cannot survive without a human host
- The lifecycle of a louse from egg to adult to death is about 30 days or so.
- The female louse lays about 6-10 eggs every day hence, they multiply fast
If you want more information on lice, check out the CDC website.
Neem is a very popular and common medicinal plant across many cultures beyond Africa and India. It is used for a variety of health care measures such as fighting skin infections, promoting wound healing, and most importantly, a natural insecticidal.
This property makes it one of the best remedies for treating insects and parasites including lice. A study in 2011 among many showed that Neem does successfully kill head lice between 1-15 minutes after application.
Where to get it:
You can find this plant easily for free in many places such as India, South Asia, South America, West Africa, etc. Just check your neighborhood and get some of its leaves for your use.
I am sure from the picture above you should recognize this plant.
If you can’t get the fresh leaves, then buy the dried leaves online. they do work just as well
How to use:
- Undo your braids, hair and remove all attachments or accessories.
- Get two-hands-put-together handful of the fresh neem leaves
- Pound them in a mortar or pestle or blend them with as little water as possible to make a thick paste.
- Alternatively, if using the neem powder, use two full tablespoon of the leaf powder
- Add water to make a thick paste. Don’t make it too watery else it will just drip off your head and ruin your clothes.
- Apply to your hair generously from scalp to hair tip. Esepcially scalp.
- Cover with a shower cap or a plastic bag
- Cover the plastic bag with a secure and thick scarf.
- Let it steam for 30-40 minutes
- Rinse it off
- Use a shampoo to wash your hair as usual if you wish.
- Or just comb with a fine tooth comb after rinsing before styling
The neem oil has similar properties to the neem plant that is known for its natural anti-parasitic, insecticidal property. Some even use this oil on their babies to prevent insect and mosquito bites at night.
During your lice treatment period, neem oil or any other insecticidal oil such as tea tree oil that eradicates pests, insects, and parasites is the only hair oil/cream that should be used on your hair and scalp.
Whenever you wash your hair or if you feel that it is dry and need some oil, neem oil/tea tree oil should be used.
Where to get it:
You can find this oil in natural products shops, oil stores, herbal stores, etc.
Apple vinegar has numerous uses and applications. In this case, while the apple vinegar does not kill the lice themselves. Its compounds loosen the louse eggs (nits) from the scalp.
I might have forgotten to mention. When the Adult louse lays an egg, it secures it with a glue-like substance on the hair shaft which makes sit tight and not move away.
How to use:
- Pour the apple vinegar and add water that is about twice the amount of the vinegar i.e in the ratio 1:3. Test it on your skin and see if the concentration is too strong for you. If then, you can add more water to dilute it some more but not too much water until you are comfortable.
- Apply it to your hair with a spray bottle or, place the solution in a water bottle, close it tightly, puncture a hole on the cap and apply it through the cap. You can also just rinse your hair with it if you don’t have any of the mentioned two items.
- Cover your head with a plastic shower cap or plastic bag
- Leave it to steam for 30-40 minutes
- Rinse with water and comb with a fine tooth comb
- You can also just let the vinegar dry and do not rinse it off.
- Comb your hair with a fine tooth comb as it dries
This recommendation might come as a surprise since I advocate for the use of natural therapies for health care. But as I have said before, sometimes we simply have to choose the most effective remedies for the sake of our health.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that was earlier created to eredicate parasites on domestic animals and due to its effectiveness; it was adapted for human use i.e. human grade tablets were developed.
Numerous studies (1, 2, 3, etc.) have shown the effectiveness of this drug in the form of lotions, tablets, etc. in treating lice, scabies, etc. My recommendation for this remedy is to use it for a physical application only not orally.
Infact, here was a study on the most effective way to treat lice with ivermectin and topical (physical) application was discovered to be more effective.
Caution: Do not use this remedy on your pubic area when treating pibic lice. Instead, use other recommendations from the list for this sensitive area.
You can also use the overmection lotion (with 0.5, 0.25, or 0.15 concentration) which is available over-the-counter at pharmacies. The lotion with the 0.5 concetration clears the louse faster than the other 2 in some studies such as this one.
In most cases, only one application was needed and a single repeat application was only done when remnants of the lice were noticed.
Remember, the ivermectin lotion should not be used on children less than a year old because it can get eaily absorbed by their skin into the body. For them, use a natural remedy like neem.
If you are looking for soemthing quick and effective, I will say use the ivermectin lotion wiith 0.5% concetration and not the tabletes which will require repeat application.
How to use (tablets):
- Ground about 2-3 tablets of the drug to powder
- Add them to about a cup of the ordinary shampoo you use. Just enough to cover your hair
- If not using shampoo, add the powdered tablets to about a cup of water
- Apply to your hair from scalp to the hair tip.
- Cover it with a plastic bag or a shower cap for 20-30 minutes
- Rinse it off and towel dry the hair
How to use (lotion):
- Apply as directed on the product pack
- You can read on all the directions and precautions to take on Medlineplus
Lice Treatment plan
The successful eradication of lice from your hair or body and your environment requires an effective remedy and patience. While the remedy can be effective, if you do not repeat this process every day at best or every other day, then you will not be lice–free quickly.
This is because these parasites are very stubborn and they tend to resist most remedies. It takes much effort to get rid of them. The following plan (2-3 week plan) is necessary if you want to get rid of them fast.
- Wash your hair as usual with a normal shampoo. Try to avoid those lice shampoos as they are fortified with chemical that can penetrate your scalp and get into your body causing much damage.
- Comb it well with a fine toothed comb and not a wide toothed comb. Like the one that men use. To prevent hair breakage, you can first detangle with a wide toothed comb then use a fine toothed comb to disengage the lice eggs (nits) from your hair strands and shaft.
- Make a Neem hair mask and apply it from sclap to hair tip
- Let it steam for at-least 30 minutes ideally 1 hour. You can find the recipe above.
- Wash it off.
- Comb and dry your hair.
- Apply neem oil to your scalp and hair shafts from root to hair tip. Apply generously
- Place your hair in an updo, bun, simple braids you can undo the following day, or just tie your hair with a hair band.
- Wear a plastic cap if not, at least cover your head with a scarf for the day to prevent them from crawling to other parts of the body or falling on to surfaces.
- Rest day. Just keep your hair covered properly.
- Undo your braids.
- Comb your hair with the fine toothed com; taking the time to thoroughly comb out the lice as much as you can
- Make an apple vinegar–water solution, an ivermectin solution or an ivermectin lotion as detailed above.
- Rinse, steam or just apply depending on the remedy you chose
- Apply some more neem oil generously afterwards and comb thoroughly.
- Put your hair in an easy hair stle and and cover with a scarf properly.
- Secure the scarf or hair cover well so that your hair is not aerated. We want to create an uncomfortable environment for them and suffocate the lice and their eggs.
Rest day just keep your head covered properly.
Repeat this circle between day one and day four for about 1-2 weeks depending on the severity of your condition.
If you notice the lice have been eradicated. Continue using the Neem oil for a week more so. This way, all of the lice die completely else, its eggs can hatch, and then you are back to where you started.
If you used th eivermectin lotion, don’t stop the application once you notice they are gone. use it once more to be sure that they are completely gone
I will advise that you inspect your hair with a fine-toothed comb a week after you have finished your treatment successfully. This is just the final measure to make sure that you are completely lice-free and then you can enjoy your life.
Tip*: This treatment will be most effective faster if you can reduce your hair length and thickness. The more hair volume and length you have, the easier it will be for them to avoid these remedies by hiding in between your hair shafts.
- Never share your hair care items such as combs, pins etc. with any one
- Avoid sharing personal items such as beddings, towels, clothes with unknown people
- Avoid using items that have been kept in storage for long as they might be infested with these parasites
- Soak combs, towels, scarfs, pillow cases and other personal items used during the lice treatment in hot water to kill all of the lice and their possible eggs
- Keep your head and hair covered dueing the infestation to prevent the lice from crawling to other people’s hair
- If your child has a lice infestation, keep them away from other children as much as you can
A lice infestation is one of those conditions that need fast and consistent action because they multiply very fast and before you know it, they are an army.
If you started treatment immediately after confirming the presence of the lice, you might not even need to do a second round of the treatment plan.
I know it is not easy and it is so time-consuming especially when you are working or have a family. I know you don’t have much time to spear but eliminating these parasites fast as possible before their numbers overwhelm is key.
I hope I have helped you in some way in treating this very uncomfortable condition. These remedies are those that I know by experience. They work if you will just stick to them consistently.
Thank you for being here with me today. I wish you the best.