Head lice are going around at my child's school. Is it true that the old remedy of using dog shampoo will get rid of the head lice? I don't know for sure if it is head lice though. I haven't seen any insects, just white stuff that looks like dried scalp or dandruff. Please help me with any home remedies that you may have. M.C. by e-mail
A. You should first make sure that your child actually has head lice before doing anything else. Head lice infestations are often over diagnosed, both by parents and health professionals. The white dandruff stuff you see might just be that. If you do see red bumps on the scalp and neck, lice moving around or nits (lice eggs) attached to the side of the hairs than treatment will be necessary.
If you are just seeing nits, but no live lice, then you may be able to simply wash the hair with a regular shampoo and then try to remove the nits using a nit comb (using conditioner can make the hair easier to comb and the lice find it harder to cling). Keep in mind that live lice can sometimes be hard to find, so if you continue to find new nits, then your child is likely have an active lice infestation and does need further treatment.
If you don't want to use a chemical on your child's head, the most effective treatment that doesn't involve using any products at all simply involves removing the nits and live lice with a lice comb and/or tweezers. It can be time consuming to do this and you may have to repeat the procedure for several days to make sure you get them all, but this is likely the best thing to do. You still have to take the time to comb out all of the nits anyway even if you use an anti-lice shampoo, as these shampoos don't kill the eggs. If you don't, they will just hatch and you will have live lice again.
Most other natural home remedies involve putting something on your child's scalp and hair to 'smother' the head lice. Popular choices include real mayonnaise, olive oil, and vaseline. These are usually left on overnight, often under a shower cap, and then washed out the next day. They can be very messy though and have not really been proven to work. Some experts believe that this method 'works' because you actually remove the nits and lice as you try to get this stuff out of the child's hair.
Essential oils are very good for getting rid of lice. Use a blend of peppermint, geranium, bergamot and eucalyptus in a base oil such as almond. Garlic and vinegar are said to be effective. There is also a badge device that you can get mail order from headlicecontrol.co.uk. They are very secretive about how the badge works but as they make mention of NASA, it’s probably some form of magnet.
You shouldn't use dog shampoo on your child - although they are more or less the same product. The active ingredients in dog shampoo, (pyrethrins and permethrin) are present in the stuff you would buy for your children’s hair. I suppose the reasons for not using the dog shampoo would be that you would have no comebacks from the manufacturer if something went wrong. That and the fact that your child might insist that you take them for a walk in the park twice a day and develop an uncanny knack of catching Frisbees in their mouths!