Head lice

Updated 13 July 2016

Home remedies for head lice

Since head lice are becoming increasingly resistant to some over-the-counter treatments, parents are turning to home remedies in the search for a solution.

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Each year millions of children all over the world get head lice.

This is a source of consternation to teachers and parents alike, and many hours and large sums of money are spent trying to get rid of these stubborn parasites.

The most common treatment for head lice is to kill the adults with an insecticidal shampoo that can be bought over-the-counter (OTC) at your nearest pharmacy, and to comb out head lice with a special fine-toothed comb.

Of the OTC medications for lice, permethrin has been used for years, but new reports state that, in the US, super lice populations have developed resistance to OTC treatments recommended by doctors – which has once again put the spotlight on home remedies. 

If you're a South African parent and your children have had head lice, you're most likely to say that that's the case here, too, even if we don't have the stats to back that up.

Read: Treating head lice and and Symptoms of head lice

There is a large and lively South African 'Boererate en Resepte' open group on Facebook that offers solutions to a myriad ailments and complaints.

Health24 (the Ed is a member of the group), scoured the Questions and Answers for some tips from the members on how to get rid of head lice.

Here is a list of the most common solutions:

  • If you have boys, shave their heads. This is a cheap and easy method, and when the hair starts growing out, rinse with vinegar after every wash. This keeps the lice away.
  • Nothing I got from the chemist worked, but someone said I should try vinegar. You rub the vinegar into the hair and scalp, cover the head with a shower cap, wrap in a towel and leave on overnight. Next morning rinse and shampoo and comb out with a fine comb. Repeat the process three times.
  • Make sure you wash everything – bedding, teddy bears and curtains – with boiling hot water after treating your kids’ hair. If you don’t, the lice will just come back.
  • I add some tea tree oil to my shampoo – it works like a bomb.   
  • 'Wash' your child’s head with cola and leave it on until it’s almost dry. This takes care of the lice.
  • First rub bicarb into the hair, then vinegar; leave it on for an hour and then comb out with a fine comb.
  • I found a good, cheap remedy for head lice: 50ml surgical spirits, 25ml Lennon peppermint essence and 50ml cooking oil. Mix everything together and spray on hair. Leave for 15 minutes and shampoo off. Repeat after a week to kill baby lice. The mixture washes out easily and doesn’t burn the scalp.
  • Apply a mixture of baby oil and vinegar to the head. Cover with a shower cap, leave on for an hour and the critters will literally slide off your head.  
  • Put mayonnaise on your child’s head, cover and wait for an hour. Rinse with conditioner – guaranteed to work like a bomb.
  • Any liquid oil will suffocate them. Wash out with dishwashing liquid.
  • Wash your hair; then slowly pour a litre of Coke over your head.   
  • Rub eucalyptus oil onto hair and scalp. Shampoo off after an hour and remember also to wash your bedding in very hot water.  
  • To get rid of nits, mix equal amounts of fabric softener and conditioner, apply to your head and leave for 30 minutes. This will loosen the nits, and you only need to comb them out.

NB: Health24 cannot vouch for the safety of these home remedies and urge you to check with your doctor about any of these suggestions before trying!


Read more:

Everything you need to know about head lice
How hot air can kill resistant head lice
Love taking selfies? It may spread head lice

Article resources:

Health24.com, Facebook: Boererate en Resepte

Have another sure-fire solution, or product that really works for getting rid of head lice? Let us know in the comments below or send an email to community@health24.com