Head lice are parasitical insects that infest the human hair and feed on the blood in order to survive. They also leave eggs, which need to be removed. There are two basic ways to get rid of lice: toxic and non-toxic.
It is believed that the most efficient way to get rid of the lice is to poison them with toxic products, which usually come in form of shampoos. Those shampoos contain active ingredients that act as pesticides, usually pyrethrum or permethrin. They affect the nervous system of a louse and kill it.
While these toxic remedies show great results in killing the lice, they are not always completely safe for humans, especially for young children, who are particularly susceptible to lice because they spend a lot of time in direct contact with other children, in day care or in school.
Toxic lice shampoos can damage the mucous membrane if they come in contact with eyes, mouth and nose. Dangerous chemical ingredients in these shampoos can also penetrate the skin through small openings that are formed on the scalp because of the scratching. Several studies have found these chemicals to be carcinogens.
Another problem associated with the use of toxic shampoos is that some of the lice species have become resistant to the chemicals used in those shampoos. In those cases, a person suffering from lice usually increases the dosage, which can be dangerous. In case the lice do not react to pyrethrum or permethrin, it is highly recommended to try a different approach.
There are many products and remedies that aim to remove lice and their eggs, without actually killing them. They usually combine a slippery gel and a specially designed comb, but after the lice and the eggs are efficiently removed, they can still pass to another person.
Some natural or home remedies can also be used for this purpose. Those include petroleum jelly, olive oil and mayonnaise and they are usually left overnight before combing and rinsing.
In addition, there are special combs that virtually zap a louse when they come in contact with it, using electric current from an AA battery.
Whichever method is used to eliminate the lice, it is important to make sure they do not come back. It is recommended to carefully wash all the clothing items, especially the headgear, as well as the linen and personal items such as combs and hair brushes. Items that cannot be washed should be dry-cleaned and placed in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.