Head lice are small, parasitic insects that breed in human hair and feed on human blood, which they suck from the scalp. These tiny, wingless creatures are completely harmless but highly contagious and common among school children. They spread by head to head contact or by sharing personal items like combs, hair brushes, towels, clothing and bed-sheets. Lice infestation is more common in girls than boys. Presence of lice is an irritating condition, which can cause itchiness as well as inflammation of scalp.
Nits are lice eggs, which get stuck to hair shafts close to the scalp, as warm temperature is a pre-requisite for hatching of these nits. The average life-span of a louse is 30 days while a nit takes about 7-10 days to hatch. They are quite difficult to remove and have to be pulled out manually, while lice can be removed using a fine-toothed lice comb. This process has to be repeated every 7-10 days to take out the freshly-hatched nits.
Several medicated shampoos and lotions are easily available in the market to remove hair lice, but these can have side-effects on the delicate scalp of the child. For this purpose, we can resort to various home remedies to get rid of hair lice. Mentioned below are some of them:
1. Vinegar: Use a cotton ball to dab the scalp with a solution made by mixing 2 teaspoons vinegar and 6 teaspoons water, cover your hair with a cloth and leave it overnight. Shampoo next morning and comb out the dead lice and nits. Alternatively, you can apply a mixture of vinegar and olive oil to the scalp before a shower.
2. Onion juice: Extract the juice of 5-7 medium-sized onions and massage it on the scalp. Leave it for an hour and wash hair with normal water to get rid of lice.
3. Almonds: A paste made by mixing 10 peeled, crushed almonds with 4 tablespoons lemon juice is applied to the scalp for half an hour and then rinsed out with normal water. Application of paste of bitter almonds to the scalp is also helpful. Massage with almond oil is also beneficial for lice removal.
4. Tobacco paste: Apply a paste made by mixing tobacco in water on you scalp and cover your head with a shower cap with 2-3 hours. After that, use a mild shampoo or soap-nut emulsion to wash your hair.
5. Alum (phitkari): A solution made by mixing 3 grams alum (phitkari) in half a liter of water can be used to rinse your hair regularly. This treatment has to be repeated every 7-10 days, as it is effective for lice, it cannot destroy nits.
6. Custard apple seeds: Apply powder made by grinding raw custard apple along with seeds to the scalp overnight and cover your head with a cloth to avoid contact with the eyes. Rinse it in the morning to finish off the head lice. Instead of the powder, you can also use a paste made by mixing it to some water.
7. Garlic and lemon juice: Massage your scalp with a mixture of 2 teaspoons each of garlic juice and lemon juice half an hour before you wash your hair. It will definitely help to alleviate this problem. You can also rub a piece of lemon on your scalp to kill the lice.
8. Basil and neem leaves: Another wonderful natural remedy for head lice is a handful of basil and neem leaves boiled in some water and used to rinse your hair frequently. A home-made hair oil, prepared by boiling neem leaves, basil leaves, some amlas (Indian gooseberry) and cloves in coconut oil, is also helpful.
9. Indian hemp leaves: A paste made by crushing some leaves of Indian hemp (cannabis) is another effective home remedy for head lice.
10. Camphor: Prepare a concoction by adding some camphor to coconut oil and use it for head massage. Leave it overnight and wash hair next morning. This procedure has to be repeated for 4 days to get rid of head lice.
Preventing lice re-infestation is as important as their removal. For this purpose, the first step is to disinfect the items of personal use after lice removal. You need to hot wash the clothing, towels and bed-sheets used by the child. Also, discard her combs and hair brushes. Children should be guided to avoid head-to-head contact in school and playground. Also, sharing of combs and hair-brushes should be discouraged. Once the head lice and nits have been removed, you need to examine the child regularly to check for their re-appearance, so that timely action is taken.
Lice infestation is not an indication of poor hair hygiene, one simply needs to take a bit of extra caution with school-going kids to keep it at bay.