Q. I teach elementary school, and lice are an ongoing, frustrating problem. Many low-income families struggle with the high cost of treatments, which often are not effective. I have two suggestions that are natural and quite effective (given to me by my students’ families).
1. Coat the affected head entirely with mayonnaise and cover with a shower cap. Leave on head for at least one hour. (Watch a movie or read a story.) Rinse and shampoo as usual. I am told this drowns the lice.
2. When the affected head is dry, put the child in the bathtub and pour salt on the scalp, taking care to keep it out of the eyes. Rub in with fingers for several minutes. This is supposed to loosen the nits. Rinse and then wash hair as usual.
When my own daughter got head lice at age 6, I was appalled at how her tender scalp turned red and irritated at the commercial treatments. We used these two inexpensive, natural suggestions a few times during a two-week period and were lice-free. I suggest them to anyone I know who has to deal with head lice.
A: Desperate parents have used mayonnaise to coat the hair and suffocate lice. Others have used olive oil. One review of home remedies found that only petroleum jelly was effective at killing lice (Journal of Pediatric Nursing, December 2004). Readers have testified that getting Vaseline out of hair is a major problem, though!
One other approach we have heard is to soak the hair with Cetaphil (a nonsoap cleanser), use a blow-dryer to harden it and leave it on overnight (Pediatrics, September 2004). Shampoo the hair in the morning.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at email@example.com.