Right now there are approximately 41,500 Canadian children scratching their heads in unnecessary frustration, thanks to head lice. At any given time about two per cent of elementary school-aged children are infested in this country.
Right now there are approximately 41,500 Canadian children scratching their heads in unnecessary frustration, thanks to head lice. At any given time about two percent of elementary school-aged children are infested in this country.
Head lice are tiny wingless parasites that live on humans. They live by biting and sucking blood from the scalp and can not normally survive for more than two days unless they are on the human head.
Contrary to popular belief, lice are attracted to and enjoy clean living conditions–having lice does not reflect poor hygiene. Direct head to head contact with an infested person is the most common way to spread lice, although sharing personal items such as hats, brushes and hair decorations may also play a role in their spread between children. Head lice may not have any lasting effects, but unless treated properly, it can be a reoccurring problem.
The over-the-counter solution is a variety of head lice shampoos, most of which contain pesticides. Pesticides can cause seizures, behavioral changes, neuromuscular complaints, attention deficit disorders, chronic skin eruptions, cancer and death. These chemicals should also not be used on young children, pregnant women or after a hot bath because they can be absorbed through the skin and cause nervous system disorders.
Another problem is that while these conventional treatments used to be very effective, lice are now building up a resistance to them. Why take the risks of using a pesticide on your child that may not even work, when there is a safe, natural, inexpensive alternative–tea tree oil.
The substance got its name back in 1770, when Captain Cook’s crew brewed a tea from it in Tasmania, near Australia. By World War II, tea tree oil was widely recognized in Australia as a very effective anti-bacterial, antifungal and antiseptic agent. Known as "the first aid kit in a bottle," it was part of every soldier’s standard issue. Tea tree oil’s overall effectiveness has been evaluated by many organizations, among them the Australian Journal of Pharmacy. Their evaluation concludes that "tea tree oil is safe, easily accessible, and its side effects profile is superior to most products."
Michael Dean is president of Thursday Plantation Laboratories Inc, a major producer of tea tree oil. He says a treatment for lice is one of the most frequent requests he receives. Because of tea tree oil’s complex chemical composition it is difficult for organisms to develop resistance to it.
The Melaleuca alternifolia, or tea tree, belongs to the same family of plants as the eucalyptus tree. It contains the major component l-terpinen-4-ol, which research shows has a high solvent action that attacks mature lice and dislodges them from the scalp. The result is a high lice mortality rate after the first application.
For lice treatment simply mix approximately 30 drops of 100 percent pure tea tree oil to the regular recommended amount of tea tree shampoo.
Massage into the child’s scalp, leave on for five minutes, then rinse. Follow with conditioner, then comb the hair with a metal lice comb. Make sure that you check hair for at least eight days after this procedure. If even one egg is found repeat the procedure. Even though experts are unsure if lice and their eggs will survive and nest in fabrics and cause reinfestation, it is a good precaution to add about 20 drops of tea tree oil solution when doing laundry.