Well, now that school has been in for a while, some parents have been found their youngsters the unwanted new habitat for lice. Just mentioning the word makes my head itch. As a mom of 3, and stepmom to 5, I’ve been through the life cycle of a louse more times than I can count. At the time, when faced with the unwanted infestation, I would simply go to the closes drugstore, and buy RID or any other brand of shampoo, and then trudge home for an evening of nit-combing. However, when my daughter was still a baby, she also had a few “visitors” courtesy of her older sister. I didn’t want to try to put the shampoo on her head, as I was afraid of it getting into her eyes, and as I read more about lice shampoos and treatments, I began to worry about what I had been putting on my stepchildren as well, so I began to look for safe, effective, non-toxic alternatives. Here are some that I have found effective.
Step One – Kill the Lice
My favorite treatment, hands down, is the Robi-Comb. I first came upon a Robi-comb when looking for lice treatment shampoos in a discount drug store. It was in a beat up box, and pretty expensive (almost $20 at the time), but it interested me. After reading the box, I decided to try it. The Robi Comb is powered by a single AA battery. It effectively “electrocutes” the lice as the comb passes through the hair. There is a small hum when the comb is on, and when it encounters a louse, it will go silent for a moment (or until the louse is removed from the teeth.) This is great, because even if you can’t see the louse, or if you “lose” it as you are trying to remove it, as it is already dead, it is no longer a re-infestation risk. Most importantly for me, it was simple and safe to use even on my one year old daughter. If your child lets you comb their hair, you can kill any lice they may have. Even if the comb teeth come into contact with the skin, all you get is a small “shock” comparable to a small static cling shock, and nothing like the hours of painful hair pulling that traditional methods require. The Robi-comb can also prevent re-infestations if you use it regularly to check and treat your child’s hair. Once I know of an outbreak of lice at school, I use it about twice a week, for a few weeks, just to be safe. If I encounter a louse on any of these checks, I simply up my use to once a day. The only drawback with the Robi Comb is that it does not remove nits, and so another method is required to remove nits before a child can go back to class. But it is truly effective at killing lice without any harmful side effects or chemicals.
Step Two – Nit Removal
Nit removal is one of the most annoying, and yet extremely important steps of ridding your life of lice. Miss just one single nit, and in less than two weeks, you could have a full blown infestation again. Especially for those who have children with thick hair, nit removal can be downright painful. Again, I looked for a safe, non-toxic alternative. What I discovered is Tea Tree Oil. Tea tree oil is a great natural product that acts as a natural solvent. The tea tree oil not only loosens the glue that holds the nits to the hair, but the oil in it “greases” the hair so that the nit comb can slide more easily through the hair. Using tea tree oil for nit removal instead of regular conditioners or nit removal products, I have been able to cut my “nit removal time” about in half (without having to give my child a hair cut!) As an added benefit, the tea tree oil tends to penetrate the nits, and so should you miss any, they will more than likely be dead eggs, and will not lead to a re-infestation. (However, be sure to follow up with a regular Robi-comb session to be sure there are no live eggs left anywhere.)
Step Three – Clean Home, Clean Hair
Once you have eliminated the lice from the child, next you have to make sure they are out of your home. Again, I use tea tree oil, or some other natural oil (many use peppermint oil) for this purpose. Of course, wash all towels and linens, especially the ones the child uses in hot water. You can also add tea tree oil to the laundry, or look at health food stores for products with tea tree oil in them. Online, you can visit Melaleuca which has an entire line of household products that use tea tree oil. Also, be sure to treat things that cannot be washed such as car seats, couches, chairs, and even the carpet area where your child typically likes to lay and read or watch television.
If its been a particularly bad year (I judge a bad year by more than one outbreak in school per semester) I will switch to a shampoo with tea tree oil in it or buy one of the non-toxic repellent sprays and treat my kids hair with it daily for a while. They may smell a little minty for a while, but it sure saves us in the long run.
If you follow all of these steps, you should be able to rid yourself and your home of these unwanted guests without being too hard on your children or their health!
Stefani Padilla, author, entrepreneur, home based business owner, wife and mom.