checking for lice and nits

Q. My daughter had head lice several times when she was very young and her hair was long. The lice shampoos did not work at all.

Finally we used mayonnaise in her hair. We applied it from the scalp to the ends and then wrapped her head with plastic wrap. That was left on for at least two hours while she watched her favorite DVD. When we washed her hair, you could see the lice rinsing out. We did this every three days for two weeks to make sure that they were all gone.

A. Many readers report that smothering lice with mayonnaise, coconut oil, Listerine or petroleum jelly works better than lice shampoo. In many places, lice have developed resistance to the chemicals in the shampoos. Adding vinegar to the rinse can help loosen nits. All such treatments require persistence.

Getting petroleum jelly out of hair, however, is a challenge. Many parents who try this approach become frustrated with that problem. Apparently applying mineral oil before using shampoo (or Dawn dish detergent) can help dissolve the petroleum jelly and ease its removal.

Another approach that has helped some families is to coat the hair with Cetaphil cleanser (cetyl alcohol), run the blow dryer on it (it will form a hard shell) and leave it on overnight.

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  1. Erica

    I have had good luck using psoriasis ointment with coal tar extract, both in removal of nits and controlling the itching and pain.

  2. Steve Lee

    We use olive as the first part of two-part treatment.

  3. ebm

    An old fashioned hair dresser had me use mayo to cure split ends on my long blond hair. You must douse the hair with huge amounts of shampoo – cheap stuff ok – and work it in really well. Then rinse out real warm. Do not ever put water on the greasy remedy, it makes a gooey mess, my sister ended up using laundry soap out of desperation to get the grease out, which defeats the purpose of conditioning.

  4. JWT

    Olive oil also works to smother lice, is a lot less messy to use, and washes out more easily than mayonnaise. It is also probably easier to work into every nook and cranny of the hair and scalp.

  5. cara

    When children get lice, remember to put their stuffed animals in plastic bags for three months. Also, you must treat your sofas, bedding, even car seats, anywhere that lice can lurk. It’s a huge job to keep these critters from coming back. When I worked as an office manager for a YMCA where we had a daycare, children would come in with lice and often more than once. When we would ask their parents if they were treating sofas and car seats, too, they always replied no. It was too much work to do that. Yes, it is work, but do it anyway. Even rugs have to be treated because kids often are on floors.

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