How To Get Rid of Lice (Complete Removal Guide)
Want to learn how to get rid of lice safely and easily...
...you're in the right place!
If you or your family have been scratching at your heads, you might have lice.
Many people associate lice with being unclean, but they're actually a common pest that can be transferred by direct contact.
Kids who go to school are likely candidates for infestation, as are you are every time you go out in public. Below will be some of the top "Do's and Don'ts" of treating lice and getting rid of them for good.
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What are lice?
Lice is the plural form of head louse, a common parasite that can be found on humans. Just to be clear, head lice are NOT to be confused with booklice, which are a completely different insect.
Head lice live on a person's head where there is hair, usually by the scalp, in eyebrows, and even on eyelashes sometimes.
These pests feed on human blood and will bite the scalp to find their food of choice. Thankfully, although lice are irritating and gross, it's uncommon for someone to contract a disease from them.
People should remove them as quickly as possible though, because lice are vectors for illnesses like Typhus.
What do lice look like?
Each head louse lives through three stages of life:
- Nit: Nits are the tiny eggs laid by lice. These eggs are found near the scalp because they need warmth to survive. Nits are firmly cemented to the hair and can be difficult to remove even when the louse has hatched, making them one of the hardest parts to eliminate. A nit may be yellow or white in appearance and extremely difficult to see. They take 8-9 days to hatch.
- Nymph: Lice nymphs are immature lice which need to grow to become adults. They feed on blood at this stage and take 9-12 days to become fully grown. Nymphs have six legs, long thoraxes, and tend to be tan, gray, or white.
- Adult: Adults are fully grown lice. They are slightly larger than nymphs and possess many of the same characteristics, including six legs and the tan or grey coloring. Most adult lice live for 30 days and continue to feed off of a host's blood. The females are bigger than the males and can lay 6 eggs a day, making it easy for lice to reproduce and infest someone's hair. You are most likely going to be able to see the adult lice without careful inspection or a magnifying glass. Each adult has claws on the end of their legs which they use to grip hair and move around without falling.
What are some common signs of a lice infestation?
Because lice are difficult to see, it can be hard to tell if you have them. Below are some of the most common signs of a lice infestation:
- Excessive itching, which is caused by bites
- Feeling a tickling sensation like something is moving in your hair
- Trouble sleeping, which is caused by active lice
- Finding red bumps on the skin caused by bites
- Finding small eggs near your scalp
- If you want more information on where lice come from, check out this guide!
What SHOULDN'T you use to remove lice?
If you search the internet for any amount of time, you'll notice that there are always "natural" ways to solve problems and save money.
Unfortunately, the people making those recommendations are not qualified to do so, and they are usually citing the opinions of other people or unverified sources.
This is bad and could result in injury to you and your family.
Warning about using Listerine to get rid of lice
Many people like to get creative with insect problems and come up with natural alternatives. If you search the internet, you might find some people recommending Listerine for lice removal. Please do not use Listerine as it contains 27% alcohol and will burn the scalp if there are open cuts, wounds, or scrapes. It could also be accidentally consumed by children, which further increases the risk.
In addition to Listerine, there are many other "treatments" circulating around the internet that you might come across. It's our duty as purveyors of pest control guides and information to make you aware of these treatments so you can steer clear of them.
Below are excerpts from the Spokane Regional Health District published guidelines for lice removal. Take a minute and familiarize yourself with some of their notes.
(Click each below to enlarge the image.)
- Can you use Coca Cola to kill lice? Check out this guide to see.
What methods should you use to remove lice?
There are three ways to eliminate lice: with a non-shampoo treatment, with a shampoo treatment, and with a specially made comb.
Thankfully, when you notice you have a lice infestation, treatment options are usually very effective. When you separate lice from their hosts, they usually die within a day.
Most of these methods can be done in the comfort of your own home. However, if you're not comfortable with the process, you can visit a special salon and have someone remove the lice from you and your family members for a price.
Head Lice Treatments
Many head lice treatments can be bought at the store or online and applied at home.
The most effective treatments usually contain pesticides or chemicals designed to kill lice. The most common ingredient in treatments is permethrin, which is safe to use on children 2 years of age and older. No two treatments are the same, but they share some common characteristics.
Most need to be applied to dry hair and allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes in order to kill lice.
They then need to be washed out to prevent harming you or the person you are helping. Many treatments do not kill eggs, which means you need to use the product several times over the course of 2-3 weeks carefully combing out the dead lice and nits after application.
Head Lice Shampoos
Shampoos differ from other lice treatments because they are designed like a regular wash. Most can be applied to wet or dry hair and allowed to sit for several minutes.
Shampoos tend to be gentler than chemical treatments, and may use more natural ingredients to combat lice. Because these products are not as strong, many need to be used over a span of several days and continually applied for a weak to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Many shampoos are designed for children and can be washed out after they are allowed to soak. However, a lot of shampoos do not eliminate nits without the aid of a lice comb.
Head Lice Combs
Finally, a head lice comb is a specially designed utensil that can knock out lice and nits. Each comb features thin, closely spaced teeth which dislodge nits and the claws lice use to stick to strands of hair.
Combs do not require any chemicals, and many come with rounded edges designed to stop you from cutting your skin.
Many manufacturers do not charge much for a comb - the average is $10 - and metal ones can be sterilized and reused.
It's highly likely that any lice treatment plan you go with you'll need to grab a lice comb. Thankfully, most products bundle lice combs into a nice affordable package.
- Need some buying tips for lice combs? Review this guide here.
Conclusion: So what's the best way to get rid of lice?
Because lice are small and durable, the best way to eliminate them is to combine multiple treatments to create an effective line of defense against the pests. That being said...
Here's a quick recap of what you should do:
- First identify person (or persons) with the lice problem
- Once you've found that person, you should begin a shampoo treatment to kill the lice
- Then remove all the dead lice and eggs with a comb
- Inspect all the places where those persons live and sleep
- Wash any clothes, bed sheets, and pillowcases which you or the affected person has slept on in high heat.
If you perform the above step, you should be able to take care of your lice problem.
Armed with the knowledge in this article and some proper supplies, you can easily beat lice before they get the best of you!
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