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Nit Picking

How to pick off head lice

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Nit Picking

The kids are off to school again and bringing homeâ??head lice. Donâ??t panic. A lousy head is not a sign of poor hygiene. These blood-sucking insects adore nice, clean heads and affect one in four school children each year, reports the Sierra Club of Canada.

The kids are off to school again and bringing home–head lice. Don’t panic. A lousy head is not a sign of poor hygiene. These blood-sucking insects adore nice, clean heads and affect one in four school children each year, reports the Sierra Club of Canada.

Many parents have successfully tackled lice in children’s hair with simple, nontoxic remedies available at your local health food store. Why use natural solutions to eradicate head lice? Unlike their conventional counterparts, natural treatments can be repeated without fear of neurotoxic effects. The lice themselves respond readily, whereas they have developed immunity to lindane and pyrethrins, the chemicals in conventional lice treatments.

Nonchemical treatments for lice proliferate. After hours of sifting through written material and more hands-on experience than I care to remember, here’s a basic recipe and strategies to help you triumph over the lice in your life.

The oil in the remedy eventually suffocates the lice and penetrates their eggs (nits), while the vinegar dissolves the glue that binds nits to the hair shaft. The essential oils enhance the effectiveness of the lice treatments, especially neem oil, which has been used as a traditional Ayurvedic insecticide for centuries.

After treatment, remember to wash combs and launder bedding, towels, and clothing that may have come into contact with lice. They can be washed in hot water–I like to add a bit of tea tree oil or borax to the wash water–and then dry in the dryer on the hot setting for half an hour. Quarantine stuffed animals and throw rugs in sealed plastic bags and freeze for 48 hours. Finally, vacuum floors and upholstery for nit-bearing hairs.

While dealing with your child’s lice infestation can seem daunting, with the help of some basic tools and natural ingredients, you’ll be on your way to keeping lice away for good.

Lice be Gone

To get rid of lice, prepare the following mixture and gather the tools you will need: a fine-toothed lice and nit comb, shower cap or plastic cling wrap, old towels, and a hair dryer.

2/3 cup (160 mL) olive or coconut oil
1/3 cup (80 mL) apple cider vinegar
20 to 30 drops of tea tree or neem oil
10 drops each of rosemary, lavender, and lemon essential oils

Combine oil and vinegar; then add tea tree or neem oil and essential oils. Pour over hair and scalp. Cover head with shower cap or wrap snugly in plastic wrap. Leave on at least two hours–a study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that lice covered in oil for only one hour survived, while those treated for two hours did not.

Comb out hair and use lice comb to carefully go through hair strands from scalp to ends. You could do this in the shower and rinse the comb in hot water after each comb-through. Shampoo until hair is clean, and then dry hair with air that is as hot as tolerable. Comb through again with nit comb.

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