With school back in session, the issue of lice is a hot ticket item right now! Head lice infestation (pediculosis), one of the most common contagious childhood diseases, is caused by barely visible insects found almost exclusively on the human scalp.
Contrary to popular belief, head lice infestation has little to do with personal hygiene. In fact, head lice are totally non-discriminating and can infest people of any lifestyle, age, race, or socio-economic status. However, it is a serious public health problem because some lice can carry organisms that cause other diseases, including relapsing fever.
Quick disclaimer – I am required to clearly state that I am not a licensed medical professional nor do I pretend to be one on this site. Take what I write as a launching off point to do your own research. My advice, experience, and suggestions are not to be considered medical advice.
Since forever, parents have run out to the nearest pharmacy to pick up the chemical laden lice shampoos to rid their precious children of those unwanted invaders. What these well-intentioned parents failed to realize is that the blood veins under their child's scalp are very close to the surface of the skin and the scalp is extremely permeable to anything placed on it, absorbing up to 80%. Lice shampoos offer up a heavy dose of toxic chemicals all of which are known for causing some very serious side-effects.
Check out the most common chemicals used for head lice treatment and their possible side effects.
- Pyrethrums And Pyrethroids: Pyrethrum comes from the chrysanthemum flower. Though naturally derived, pyrethrins are still pesticides which have recently been banned from agricultural use in food production. The concern is that pyrethrins can cause pneumonia, muscle paralysis, death due to respiratory failure, vomiting, and asthma. (But it is still a major component in head lice treatments such as NixTM). Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical counterparts (as contained in RIDTM) that have similar side effects.
- Permethrin: Permethrin is a broad-spectrum synthetic pyrethroid insecticide. As above, it also can cause vomiting, asthma and pneumonia, muscle paralysis and possible death due to respiratory failure.
- Carbaryl: Carbaryl is a pesticide that is often found in head lice treatments, the formulations of which vary widely in toxicity to the nervous and respiratory systems resulting in nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and excessive salivation. Other symptoms at high doses include blurring of vision, affects coordination, causes excessive sweating, and possible convulsions.
Now get this. Recent studies have shown that lice are actually becoming more and more resistant to the chemicals in traditional lice shampoos. They are turning into superbugs essentially. This is not an unusual phenomenon. More and more bacteria are mutating and becoming resistant to antibiotics due to overuse. Why wouldn't lice do the same?
What is a parent to do when head lice strikes? Coconut Oil of course!
A 2009 clinical trial showed the superiority of a coconut oil as a natural alternative to the conventional treatment from head lice and their eggs. The clinical trial, which was published in the European Journal of Paediatrics involved 100 participants and found that coconut-oil based spray was more effective than permethrin. Other studies have produced similar findings.
These studies indicated that coconut oil is likely to have a treatment success rate of around 90 per cent, which would make it a fantastic alternative to conventional insecticides like permethrin.
What makes coconut oil so effective in combating lice? The fatty content of the coconut oil, which persists on the hair and lice subsequent to washing, essentially suffocates the lice and makes it harder for them to maintain their grip on the hair. Score!
So just how do you use coconut oil to combat head lice?
- To get rid of lice start by removing as many lice as you can by combing the hair. To do this, massage a little coconut oil into the scalp and hair. Use just enough to barely coat the hair, not to make it very oily.
- Using a louse detection comb (which has finer teeth than an ordinary comb) pull the comb from the scalp to the ends of the hair. Rinse off any lice in the comb and continue. Comb through the hair at least twice.
- After combing shampoo the hair thoroughly using a toxin free shampoo taking care to massage thoroughly behind the ears and the back of the neck as this is where lice are most often found. Dry the hair.
- Apply a liberal amount of coconut oil and massage it deep into the hair. Keep the oil in the hair for as long as possible – at least 12 hours. Apply more oil as necessary to keep scalp moist. If applying at night use a shower cap and/or cover your pillow with a thick towel to protect it.
- Comb through the hair again and remove any lice you find. Most should be dead or gone by now.
- Repeat once or twice a week.
Want to know where I get my coconut oil? Visit my Products I Love page!
Have you ever battled lice? Ever try coconut oil for it?