child with lice, treat lice

Q. My kids and I have a major problem with lice. We have spent lots of time and money fighting them, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good.

Nix and Rid (at $10 an ounce) are supposed to kill lice, but the lice are still alive after using these products. Then we wait another week or 10 days to spend another $70 to $90 to do it all over again. Two of my daughters have long thick hair that requires two bottles each.

A friend has recommended kerosene, but that freaks me out. Isn’t there a more natural way to free us from nit-picking?

A. DO NOT use kerosene to kill lice. It is toxic and a dangerous fire hazard.

Lice have developed resistance to many of the common treatments used against them. The FDA has just approved a new prescription lice medication. It will take multiple bottles to treat your daughters’ long thick hair.

The new treatment, Ulesfia, contains benzyl alcohol as the active ingredient. This compound interferes with the critters’ respiration, so lice are unlikely to develop resistance.
Many parents tell us that Listerine works against lice. It contains ethyl alcohol along with a number of herbal oils that seem to kill lice. One reader reported:

“I recently found lice and nits in my 7-year-old’s hair. When I tried the product the school nurse recommended, it did nothing.

“I tried soaking the hair with Listerine and rinsing with vinegar. IT WORKED! I wish I had known sooner.”

Neither Ulesfia nor Listerine kills nits, so the treatment needs to be repeated after they’ve had a chance to hatch.

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  1. Margaret
    Central square

    How do I use ulesfia?

  2. Kim

    My child had lice last year and what I did was get a bottle of tea tree oil and original Listerine and put it in a spray bottle and leave it on her hair for 2 hrs. then I would wash her hair and put Conditioner on, and put the water on the sink hot, and take the lice comb, and comb each section of her hair. Every stroke I did, I would put the comb thru the water, then I would wash her hair again.
    This time I would put mayonnaise on her hair for an hr to get rid of the eggs, and then I would wash her hair again and comb thru the sink again, after all that I would blow dry her hair on the hottest setting and comb, with the lice comb.
    This was my remedy and it worked, and 3 days later it was all gone, see the problem with the lice remedy from the store, is that it kills the lice and not the eggs, so after a week when they hatch their is a problem again.

  3. DG

    Yes, but you have to use mayonnaise overnight. Imagine keeping mayonnaise on a 3-yr. old’s head overnight- what a nightmare! Ulesfia only stays on the child’s head for ten minutes and is indicated for ages six months and up. It is SUPER SAFE for your kids!

  4. WT

    My pediatrician just prescribed ulesfia for my daughter who’s been battling lice for months. She has long hair and the cost is $600!! The active ingredient is benzyl alcohol which is cheap and you don’t need an RX to buy, the rest is basically water and tree oils.
    I don’t know how they expect anyone to be able to afford this. Hopefully, it won’t be long before someone comes out with a comparable cheaper OTC product.

  5. NJ

    did the ulesfia work as you had anticipated? I just used it on my son a couple of days ago and am counting down till we can use it again (7 days). I feel like I am waiting for a time bomb. Please let me know if this med took care of the problem completely for you.

  6. MS

    We have just used Ulesfia after trying many OTC remedies. The most amazing thing was the number of nits that I found after using the product. It seems to soften the glue that attaches the nits to the hair. I had been combing every day and getting a louse or two but couldn’t see any nits upon close examination. Finally got Ulesfia and I literally combed about 100 nits out of her hair immediately. It says it doesn’t kill nits, but it sure helped with combing them out. Hasn’t been the full seven days since the initial treatment so I can’t say it has worked, but I’m more hopeful than with NIX or RID.

  7. JO

    How can I be sure it is ok to send my child back to daycare?
    Should I wait for one or two days after I saw the last live lice?

  8. DanaW

    Probably the most deceiving information about head lice medications is that one treatment will take care of the problem. The reality is that most medications require at least 2 treatments (one initial, and another once unhatched eggs mature into adult head lice 7-10 days later).
    No major hospital group or physician group advises the use of mayo, oils, etc for the use of treating head lice. The primary reason, there is no scientific evidence to support their use. One consideration if you’re trying to smother head lice is that they have adapted their breathing and can hold it for multiple hours (like 6-8). A perishable product like mayo will spoil in that time and expose your child to a salmonella risk. It also will have no effect on the nits (eggs) that will hatch.
    Your best bet is always to speak with your physician, pharmacist, school nurse, etc. to see what they recommend regarding treatment……and if the diagnosis is confirmed.

  9. CH

    I am guardian for my granddaughter and battled lice for two years straight (every time she visited her mom) until I got the real scoop. We get exposed to lice about three times a year but I am able to control it without a lot of work.
    When you know you have been exposed (whether lice or eggs are present or not) cover the hair (yes everyone) with any kind of oil. Put on a shower cap or wrap the hair in a towel and leave overnight (oil smothers the live lice). Shampoo hair the next day and start picking nits and eggs.
    This may take three to five days of nit picking once each day. Use a comb (Rid has one that works great) and comb through small strands of hair, dipping the comb in a bowl of water after each pass through the hair until you have done the whole head. Let the bowl sit for ten minutes and then study the contents. If they are there you will see dead lice, nits or egg shells.
    Do this once a day until the bowl is clear.
    As far as dealing with toys, stuffed animals, etc.: All I do is wash sheets if they have been slept on since exposure and vacuum my house. I used to do a lot of other things like pack stuffed animals away for a month but found out it is not really necessary.
    Louse need a host and do not live without one for more than 20 minutes. Now I can usually control exposure to lice with only having to do the nit picking for three days. Yes, it is a pain but I would never put pesticides that close to my child’s brain.

  10. TM

    It started over the summer when kids were in the pool and sharing ‘sun bathing equipment’…lotion, blankets, etc.
    10 days later we had a huge problem. We treated with OTC meds and washed and dried EVERYTHING. Then, a week later BOOM!!! We had it again. At that time I didn’t know the source (parents lie to save face), so we quarantined our kids until school started.
    Not 4 days into school a notice came home: A child in your son/daughter’s class has a case of head lice. We have tried everything from Nix, R&C, Kwell, Vaseline, Olive oil, Mayonnaise, Vinegar, Lysol Etc. NOTHING has worked so far. And yes, our kids are still quarantined outside of school, and still get lice combings everyday..
    I am losing my mind!!!!!!
    This is EXPENSIVE and I have lost so much time from work I’ll be lucky to have a job in the end.
    I am sitting here tonight with Vaseline, and then cooking oil, and then mayo on my head…until at least 5 am now. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m ready to shave my head and my daughter’s head if need be.
    Does ANYONE have a REAL solution????

  11. mmd

    I have three grown daughters and we got head lice twice when they were growing up. I remember spending all of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays trying to get rid of the little “suckers” one year. I think when I was most careful about combing out the nits- eggs, and finally when I blow dried their hair, being careful not to burn but heating up the hair to pretty warm seemed to work. I think I thought of that since the dryer is supposed to help with clothing heating up the nits on their heads might kill them, too. After the time I treated them then blow dried their hair on high heat we were done with them.
    Also, check with the school and make sure they are taking precautions against exposure from “chronic carriers”- one year that we got them my kindergarten aged daughter was sharing hats at dress up with a girl whose parents weren’t treating her. She kept getting re-infested.

  12. VCS Durham NC

    I grew up in South Asia and remembered some of the home remedies and treatments. We used coconut oil to apply to the scalp to get rid of lice. It was not available in the area of USA where we were. So, I used baby oil. Put a drop or two on the scalp and use finger tips to smear, so it covers maximum possible area. This really will form a thin greasy film. Repeat the process so that the scalp with the hair roots is completely covered with oil. The children loved the massaging effect of finger tips and relaxed. Use a showercap/plastic bag to cover the head since the oil has tendency to trickle down (that is why just a few drops at a time!!). Use sports headband to secure the head gear. Keep it for a few hours, though overnight is really good.
    I found it easier to wash off baby oil than coconut oil or cooking oil. I used the kitchen sink for this purpose, so I did not have to worry about tub getting slippery and dangerous.
    One treatment kills lice, but nits are still left. This needs to be repeated a few times at a few days’ interval so the new lice are killed before they lay new eggs. I was happy to avoid chemicals.

  13. Sandy

    My child developed lice that could not be controlled with NIX or other standard meds available OTC, even though initially these meds had appeared to work. The lice kept returning, despite all kinds of interventions, boiling sheets, spraying furniture, putting all dolls in bags in freezer for weeks, etc. I suspect the lice develop a resistance to the meds, but who knows.
    Anyway, I then used a homeopathic remedy based upon olive oil, with a few drops of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil (and maybe lavender?) mixed in, and smeared this over her head, wrapped her hair in plastic wrap for a period of time (half an hour I think), and then washed her hair.
    The olive oil came out completely, but left her hair soft and shiny. She never got lice again. I can give the details of the recipe once I look it up but I think it might be available online now as well.

  14. Leah C.

    I used Duke’s mayonnaise on a neighbor girl’s head when I was watching her… Her Mother brought Duke’s mayonnaise and it worked. That was in North Carolina. It may be hard to find…

  15. SL

    As preschool director for many years, I am still a big fan of mayonnaise for lice treatment. Get the cheap store brand in a big bottle. Cover hair for the afternoon or overnight. May take a couple of shampoos to get it all out but it works great and will hurt no one but the lice. (Watch out for slipping in the tub!) I wouldn’t even try the commercial chemicals.
    Remind family to wash and dry linens on high heat, vacuum then empty and throw away vacuum bag, and bag up stuffed animals and decorative pillow for a month or more. It may also be a friend or classmate of your child that is actually the one being re-infested or not treating an original infestation. My daughter has multi-colored, thick, curly strawberry blonde hair and had lice when she was young, so I also speak from very personal experience. Hang in there!
    I have never tried the Listerine but will suggest it to future families.

  16. H.H.

    To remove head lice, use mayonnaise. Slather mayonnaise all over head, and put a plastic bag or shower cap over the hair for 30 minutes (ALWAYS STAY WITH CHILDREN TO MAKE SURE THE BAG DOES NOT COVER THE FACE AND SUFFOCATE THEM) no more head lice.

  17. doodlebug

    My Sister had a problem with lice when her 4 children were young. Her home was spotless. She finally phoned an exterminator and he found the problem. She had a waterbed and down deep in the sides those little devils were incubating, so if the treatment isn’t working it may be something in the environment.

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