checking for lice and nits

Q. I am going crazy looking for nits. My eight-year-old daughter caught lice at summer day camp and we are having an awful time getting rid of them. The camp has a no-nit policy, which means I have to search my daughter’s fine blond hair to comb out every single one. They are very hard to see!

Is there any way get rid of these nits more easily? This entire situation has been very stressful for our family. I can’t afford to leave work, drive to her camp and take her home because of nits.

I would also appreciate any suggestions for dealing with lice? We have used lice shampoo from the pharmacy with mixed results.

A. To fight lice successfully, the live lice eggs (nits) must be removed. This can be a real chore. Just distinguishing between nits and flakes of dandruff is difficult, especially on blond hair.

There is a product designed to make it easier to spot nits and comb them out. It is called Neon Nits and is a spray that dyes the eggs bright pink. Order information is available on the Web at or by calling (877) 809-0156.

An alternate way to locate live nits is with a black light. These ultraviolet lamps make nits glow in the dark. Specialty lighting stores carry black lights or you can locate one by searching the Web.

There are products to loosen the “cement” attaching nits to hair shafts. Vibrating electronic nit combs can also make nit removal easier.

When it comes to killing lice, there are lots of products on pharmacy shelves, but lice have become somewhat resistant to these chemicals. It can be a frustrating experience. Many readers of our newspaper column and visitors to this website have had surprising success with old-fashioned amber Listerine (or house brand) mouthwash.

Here are just a few stories:

Lynn writes:

“My 4th grader, Sarah, has twice a bad case of nits. Listerine works like a charm. Spray, don’t pour, cover with a shower cap as long as you can stand it–an hour or two and then wash. The fun begins with the picking out of the dead nits. I have a her put on a new movie (Red Box) while I pick.

“Although the next day there may or may not be more, I repeat the treatment. I also soak any hair items–clips, brushes–in Listerine. This is a very cheap way to treat lice and nits.
“The biggest expense is the hot water needed to wash all the bedding, dolls, stuffed animals, coats, etc. A side benefit is that Listerine makes hair soft and shiny. You will smell the Listerine every time your hair gets wet for 2 to 3 weeks. I can live with that, easily, because of the cost and the fact that I am not filling our heads with chemicals.”

Amy says:

“I swear by the Listerine. I used a shower cap and left it on my head for about half hour. It does start to burn if you have a sensitive scalp. I would seem to believe that it dissolves the adhesive that makes the nit hold onto the shaft as well as possibly intoxicate the louse that’s crawling?”

This from TC:

“I read about the Listerine use for lice. A bit skeptical but my oldest came in with a full blown case of lice and since I battled last year for over 6 weeks with my younger two, I decided to give it a try!

“OMGosh, I put the Listerine (regular kind the others are sticky) on her head and then put on the shower cap for 2 hrs. We then rinsed her head, combed with a regular comb and she went to bed. We didn’t get a vinegar treatment done due to the time of night.

The next morning, I checked her head and I didn’t see any lice at all. I was sure she probably had some nits but she went off to school with a tight braid. She was checked by the nurse and the nurse couldn’t find anything on her head!

“Tonight, we combed through her hair and once again, no lice. I did find a few nits but I told her to flat iron her hair and come tomorrow we would repeat the treatment for the next week until we knew for certain all the buggers were gone and so were the eggs! She has super thick, dense hair and it’s almost impossible to go through each strand to pick the nits. We will definitely add the vinegar treatment to the mix to help get the nits gone.

Thanks for the suggestion!”

If you want to learn more about various remedies to eradicate lice, search this website for LICE.

And we would love to hear your story. What has worked and what has failed? Take a minute to post a comment below that others can learn from.

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  1. Gayle

    It’s very easy…any oil such as coconut will plug the insects exo-skeleton and they cant breathe. The oil also allows for easy nit removal . Applied before school and hair braided is effective prevention The lice can’t grasp oiled hair. I have many times seen dead lice in the oil after school which means a lice infestation avoided. I raised my family in Hawaii and this is standard treatment. No stink or burning or danger. Most kids sent with oiled heads to school daily. Also awesome hair conditioner.

  2. Rose
    Buffalo, NY

    I see that a lot of these comments are old, so I am hoping that by now everyone has realized that they were not dealing with a re infestation of lice, but that they had NEVER gotten rid of the first infestation. One mother stated that after using listerine, her daughter still had a few nits so she braided up her hair and sent her to school, how irresponsible!

    If you read some legitimate literature on lice, you will learn that NOTHING will kill a nit, the ONLY way to get rid of them is to comb them out (using listerine may help loosen the glue that attaches the nit to the hair shaft, making them easier to remove). If you miss 1 nit (or nymph), re infestation will occur.

    If you have ever treated with the pesticides that are sold over the counter, they clearly state that only the live lice and immature nymphs are killed, and that manual removal of each and every nit is required. Also most of the combs that are sold with the kits are inferior, its best to buy a metal, high quality comb. After initial treatment and combing, another combing or 2 is required spaced 7 to 10 days apart to catch any nits that may have hatched.

  3. wa

    I have tried to get rid of head lice for over 3 months none of these methods worked for me. I’m about ready to shave my head.

  4. Kandy B.

    Another hint is pure tree tea oil. My daughter pours it in her regular shampoo for prevention and the kids never get lice. Now is baseball season hey all share the helmets so she is ready for prevention.

    • Mel

      Teacher here swears by it. I had lice for a full year my second year teaching due to resistance issues and have ever had it since. Lice hate it. I used the mayo trick to finally rid it that time after using tons of other tricks. Tea tree oil and also other essential oils too. Oregano oil you will smell like a pizza though .lol- However, I believe this is for prevention only.

  5. Christal H.

    My son is a truck driver with a sleeper cab. He was on vacation for 2 weeks and the company had someone else drive it those 2 weeks. When my son got his truck back he also got a big batch of lice with it. The company nurse told him to use Lysol to clean his truck inside and for him to shampoo and bathe with it since it kills lice and the eggs. It worked like magic. Since I was babysitting a couple of kids who got lice at school several times plus the fact that lice alerts were out quite often from school, I started shampooing the kids hair once a week with lysol. They did not get lice again.

  6. Ellen

    I have tried to find out what the “vinegar treatment” is when used with Listerine for head lice. Please advise.

  7. SBL

    My friend suggested the mouthwash treatment for preventing lice too. If you think there may have been and exposure. I didn’t realize original Listerine works best. I will definitely keep this one in my file!
    Another treatment is the cetaphil one. My Dr recommended it when the OTC treatment didn’t work and lice reappeared after just a few days.
    You take the original cetaphil face soap and put it in a condiment bottle. Spread it liberally along the roots of the hair and then comb it all the way through. Comb excess soap onto a white towel. Completely dry the hair and rinse the next day. This worked better than the pesticide treatment for us. It does take time to dry it but my daughters hair spelled nice and was SO shiny! I did the treatment for several nights.

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