It's every homeowner’s worst nightmare come true:
You recently discovered that you or someone in your household has head lice. Naturally, your first instinct might be to panic. The thought of something creepy and crawly in your home (and in your hair) is downright upsetting.
Dealing with a lice infestation is also immensely inconvenient, and even expensive. But the important thing is to not panic and to deal with the issue head-on. (Quite literally.)
To help, we're here to discuss everything there is to know about lice removal. That way, you can eliminate the lice from your life - once and for all. Let's begin with the basics!
Understanding Head Lice
You may think of lice as insects - and this is partially correct. Lice are a type of wingless insect. But they’re technically considered parasitic insects. They thrive on warm-blooded animals and live burrowed in hair.
Head lice are the most common and you're likely most familiar with them. In addition to the scalp and hair, head lice can survive on the neck and ears. There are even lice that affect the skin and hair of the pubic regions. These are otherwise called "crabs."
A louse begins as an egg, otherwise known as a nit. Nits hatch into nymphs anywhere between 7 and 10 days after the adult female lays them. In less than a couple weeks, a nymph will grow into a full-size louse.
Human head and body lice need to feed on the blood of a human several times a day to survive. Head lice are often transmitted by sharing hats, brushes, combs, clothing, or towels. They can even crawl onto soft surfaces, clothing, or bedding when hair falls on them. If they can crawl onto a warm-blooded host within 24 hours, they can survive.
Do You Have Lice?
Head lice affect 6-12 million children in the US per year. But that’s not to say that only children get lice. Anyone can fall victim to lice infestation. It doesn't matter how old you are, where you live, or how well your personal hygiene may be.
So, how do you know if you or someone you know has lice?
The most common sign is intense itchiness. But sometimes people don't experience itchiness early on in an infestation. It can often take a few weeks before profuse itchiness occurs and for the signs to become more apparent. Many will experience the sensation of something crawling in their hair or on their skin. Others may develop sores from itching so much.
If you notice small, red bumps on your scalp, body, or pubic area, lice may be to blame. You may find these red bumps on your neck or shoulders, as well.
Lice are most active at nighttime. If you’re tossing and turning at night and are feeling itchy, lice could be the culprits.
Identifying Nits, Nymphs, & Lice
Before going to the trouble of lice removal, you should first determine if you even have them or not. Bed bugscould be the cause of any itchiness or red bumps. You could be experiencing another type of allergic reaction. So, it's important to get down to the bottom of your symptoms and check for lice regardless. But what do they even look like?
Fresh nits are practically microscopic. But within a couple of days, they start to take on the appearance of small, white-yellowish specks.
Once a nit hatches into a nymph, it becomes larger and grayer in color. A nymph will eventually grow as large as a sesame seed.
How to Check for Lice
To check for lice, you'll need to perform a comb-through inspection. First, you'll need rubber gloves and a fine-tooth comb. Have someone shine a flashlight on your hair while inspecting your own hair or someone else's. Or, you can perform the inspection under a bright lamp.
Taking the comb, part your heart into small sections. Check each section of hair from root to tip. Be sure to use the comb teeth to help you check as many individual strands as possible. If you notice small specks in your hair or someone else's, double check with a magnifying glass. You should even check for lice and nits on eyelashes and eyebrows, as well.
Still, nits and nymphs may be too small to detect. If you suspect that your home still has an infestation, check again after a couple of days. You should check everyone in your household. If someone in your home does have lice, you should notify anyone who comes into close contact with them.
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Lice Removal for Hair
Discovering that you have lice is not the best news - but it's not the worst, either. You can put an end to this pesky calamity, and we’ll explore some different ways how.
We wouldn't blame you if your first instinct is to jump in a shower and wash your hair and body. But this will do you no good. Clean hair makes it easier for lice to lay their eggs. Dirt and oil make it harder for them to lay their eggs and feed on the scalp. So, the dirtier your hair, the better.
But not washing your hair won’t get rid of them, either. So, what's the best head lice treatment?
Wet combing is the classic, go-to method for lice removal. You'll need to repeat this technique every 3-4 days during an infestation. You should also continue to wet comb up to 2 weeks after the last sight of nits and lice. You'll need:
Before beginning, cover the person's shoulders with a towel or a salon apron. Make sure their hair is completely dry. Then, apply and evenly distribute liberal amounts of conditioner to their dry hair.
Taking the tail-pin comb and hair clips, separate their hair into four sections. Once you do this, you can begin to go to work with the fine-tooth comb. Position the fine-tooth comb as close to the root as possible. Slowly comb from root to tip both on the topside and underside.
Wipe the comb on a towel and see how many lice and nits you were able to pick up. Using the magnifying glass, check to see how many nits and live lice there still are. You can also use the tweezers to pick up individual nits and lice.
You may need to perform a comb-through of each section several times. Before applying the comb, make sure to dip it into the bowl of hot water each time. Afterward, rinse out the hair and wash all tools with warm, soapy water. Give your tools - especially the combs and tweezers - a final soaking in boiling water.
Wet combing is one of the most effective lice removal methods. But it should serve as a supplemental practice. A pediculicide is the best head lice treatment and only a doctor can prescribe them. So, upon discovering that you or someone in your household has lice, call your doctor. They may prescribe or recommend an over-the-counter pediculicide.
There are anti-lice hair shampoo, conditioners, and soap, as well. Using these are not required, however. After removing lice manually, you can apply an anti-lice product to be on the safe side. Still, you don't want to overuse these products, either, as they can contain harsh chemicals.
Natural Lice Killers
After applying a pedulicide, you may be wary of using more chemicals on your hair. Luckily, there are natural ways to kill lice.
If you're wondering how to remove lice eggs from hair naturally, try mayonnaise. It's a tried and tested method and it works by suffocating the lice and their eggs. Lather up the person's hair with mayonnaise and let it soak under a shower cap for a couple hours. Be sure to get behind the ears and the hair on the neck, as well.
Afterward, wash with shampoo a few times over and rinse with hot water. You can even rinse hair with vinegar to help loosen any remaining eggs. But the mayonnaise method is not effective after one use. You may need to repeat this technique for days and weeks.
If you'd rather not use mayonnaise, there are lots of essential oils that can kill lice. Lavender, rosemary, mint, and tea tree essential oils can all work - especially as a combination. If you’re wondering how to remove lice eggs from hair, try neem leaf oil. A mixture of coconut oil and anise is another effective form of treatment.
If your hair is long, you can also kill lice and their eggs by running a flat iron over your hair. However, if you're using a pedulicide or an anti-lice product on your hair, as well, it may dry out.
How to Remove Lice from Your Home
Removing lice and their eggs from where they thrive should be the first order of business. Once you've eliminated them from your hair, it's time to get down to the rest of your house.
What's the best lice treatment when it comes to cleaning out your house? Here we'll explore a few different ways you can eliminate lice from your home once and for all.
Cleaning the Fabric
Again, lice do not survive very long without a human host. But you should still wash all fabric a person has come into contact with nonetheless.
We're talking their clothing, bed linens, towels, hats, and other fabric items they have used. You should machine wash all these in hot water that's at least 130°F. Afterward, you should dry them in a high heat cycle. Run any pillows, blankets, duvets, and quilts in the dryer on high heat, as well.
If something can't go through the machines, send them to a dry cleaner. You can also store them in plastic bags for 2 weeks - no more, no less.
It's rare for lice to infest carpets, floor rugs, area rugs, and curtains. But if you suspect someone with lice has been in close contact with these, vacuum them. You can steam clean them, as well.
After cleaning all the clothing and linens, you'll want to vacuum the mattresses. Give a thorough vacuuming of the seams and creases. You also shouldn't overlook your couch and plush furniture. People tend to lay their heads on the armrests as much as the headrests. You should vacuum underneath the cushions, as well.
Cleaning the House
After cleaning the fabrics and linens in your home, it's time to tackle the hard surfaces.
After vacuuming any and all floor linens, vacuum the floor themselves. Sweep the corners and out from under any furnaces and appliances. Afterward, clean your floors the right way by giving them a thorough mop and shine.
Giving your home a good dusting can't hurt, either. Be sure to dust and polish before sweeping and vacuuming the floors. There are even all-purpose, anti-lice cleaners you can apply to hard surfaces. Go for a non-toxic brand as these won't leave behind any residue or fumes.
To be on the safe side, you should also wash any linens and fabrics that came close to infested clothing. For example, if you hung an infested jacket next to another coat, hat, or scarf, you should wash those, as well.
If your child has lice, be sure to dry any stuffed animals and plush toys on high heat. You can also place them in a plastic bag for a few days.
You should sanitize any hair products, like combs, brushes, and clips, too. Create a solution of hot water and anti-lice shampoo and soak these items in it for up to an hour.
It's also important to clean your car if there is a lice infestation in your home. Remove all belongings from your car and wash all laundered items in a hot water cycle. If something can't go through the wash, wrap it in a sealed plastic bag for a few days.
After removing everything from your car, give it a good vacuuming. Pay close attention to the headrests. Be sure to vacuum the seats, floors, and the dashboard.
It's not uncommon for pets to get lice, as well. If you suspect your pet has lice, take them to the vet. Your vet will prescribe an anti-lice medication or shampoo. You should isolate your pet from the home to avoid spreading the lice. Wash their bedding, plush toys, collars, leashes, and any furniture they sit on.
Burning Down the Louse
Dealing with a lice infestation is quite memorable - and not in the good sense. Luckily, lice removal is easier than you think. By following these tips, you’ll make every louse wish they had never latched onto your hair.
See more on our Get Rid of Lice page.
But surely there are other messes and events that can wreak havoc on your home. Be sure to stay tuned for more cleaning tips so you can handle anything life throws your way!