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April 19, 2012
How To Break The Life Cycle of Head Lice In 7 Days

Natural remedies are often more beneficial than chemical treatments for head lice, a type of parasitic insect that lives on the scalp and feeds on its host's blood. Spread by close contact with other people, head lice are especially common among school children. Here's how to completely break the life cycle of lice in 7 days.

Head lice are spread by head-to-head contact, usually by people who know each other well. Lice seen on chairs, pillows or hats are dead and cannot infect anyone so it is pointless to spray things like sheets or furniture.

Although most common in children, adults can also get lice, which attach their eggs to hair shafts and lay five to six a day. The bugs are usually found at the back of the neck and behind the ears and are probably more common in girls, who are more likely to have close contact during play.

Cutting hair, or tying it back, does nothing to help get rid of lice, Beth Nash, a physician and editor said in a review in the British Medical Journal.

"Head lice are harmless. If detached from their host they are vulnerable and effectively dead," she said.

Standard treatments for head lice infestations usually involve the use of an over-the-counter shampoos containing synthetic insecticides. This is definitely not the best option since the chemicals themselves are more harmful to your health than the lice. However, natural remedies are also very effective to eliminate the critters

A number of essential oils hold promise. For instance, laboratory experiments indicate that tea tree, peppermint, cinnamon leaf, lavender, and eucalyptus oils can destroy head lce. Even straight coconut oil can work effectively.

To date, some clinical trials have tested the effectiveness of essential oils in treatment of head lice. The available human-based research includes a 2010 study from BMC Dermatology, which involved 123 people with head lice. Study results revealed that a topically applied product containing tea tree oil and lavender oil was more effective against head lice than a product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (two substances found in a shampoo commonly used to treat head lice).

Several small studies show that shampoos containing neem extract may help get rid of head lice. Widely used in ayurvedic medicine, neem extract has insecticidal compounds called azadirachtins.

In a 2011 study published in Parasitology Research, for example, scientists used a neem-extract-based shampoo on 12 children with head lice. They found that a one-time, ten-minute treatment with the shampoo destroyed all head lice. Repeating the experiment with eight other children, the study's authors found that a one-time, 20-minute treatment delivered the same results. Other research shows that neem-extract-based shampoo may get rid of head lice and their eggs without triggering any side effects.

Melanie Dugan, a degree holder in agricultural science, said her education in pest management and eradicating life cycles of Heliothus spp. or the Bollworm, helped advance her knowledge on preventing lice egg (nit) plagues.

According to Dugan, there are 3 stages in the life cycles of Head Lice:

1. The adult louse. They lay eggs.
2. The eggs (nits). Found close to the scalp on the hair shaft.
3. The nymph. The stage in between an egg and an adult.

The life cycle is about 30-35 days. Eggs will hatch nymphs in about 6 days; nymphs will be adults 7 days later; the adults mate and begin laying eggs 2 days after, and keep laying up to another 12 days until they die. A female adult will lay a lot of eggs in its short life. (Refer to for further reading and a diagram on the Life Cycle.)

Based on her own experience, Dugan explains how to break the Life Cycle of Head Lice in seven days:

Day 1
Remove all adult lice. Adult lice lay eggs (nits). Stopping the laying of more eggs is the first step. Dry comb as much as possible during the day, (every 2 hours I suggest) and do a wet comb at night. Use any hair conditioner for the wet comb through. You might see nymphs as well, but not eggs. Eggs are harder to remove. Wash out the conditioner and comb again. I left the conditioner in my hair most nights as I wanted to prevent my husband catching them.

Daya 2-3
Continue removing all adult lice. Comb head first thing in the morning and Repeat Day 1.

Day 4
Kill the eggs and the nymphs and any adult lice still present. In the morning apply a natural nit lotion. Follow the instructions on the packet. Then repeat Day 1. Yes, have you got it yet? Keep combing, wet hair, dry hair, doesn’t matter, and doesn’t matter how often. Break the cycle, don’t let nymphs turn to adults which lay eggs.

Day 5

Continue to kill the eggs. Repeat Day 4 but with a different kind of nit lotion. This is a very important point. Lice can become resistant to certain pesticides. Continual combing and isolation (don’t go to work and take your child out of school) are the other important factors to breaking the life cycle.

Day 6
Keep combing: morning, noon and night. The nit lotions have a residual effect so the eggs and nymphs are dying and are easily combed out. Do a wet comb with conditioner in the evening.

Day 7
Keep combing. More dead eggs and nymphs comb out. This is the day when the cycle has been disrupted, but vigilance must be maintained. If you have missed any eggs, they will be hatching around this day or Day 8. You can repeat Day 4 if necessary.

To see a table showing the rapid rise in head lice numbers use the Head Lice and Nit Population Calculator here.

By Melanie Dugan and April McCarthy


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