Like dandruff, lice infestation is one of those unfortunate occurrences in our lives that many people believe is as a result of having poor personal hygiene. We are often embarrassed to let anyone – including those close to us – know we have a lice infestation problem.
This is unfortunate because lice infestation on the human body is a common occurrence in the society. It affects everyone irrespective of race, gender, nationality, social class, etc. Nobody is immune to a lice infestation unless you take some preventive measure that can significantly reduce your chances of contracting it.
What are lice?
Lice are tiny wingless parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They are passed from person to person through close personal contact and the sharing of personal items. There are three types of lice that affect the human body. They are:
- Head lice – they feed on the blood from the scalp and can be seen on the nape of the neck and around the ears.
- Body lice – they usually live on your clothes/bedding and often move to the skin to feed.
- Pubic lice – they are most found on the skin and hair of the pubic area and less on the chest hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.
The symptoms of lice infestation on the body can be very clear in the later stages but not when it is in the beginning stages of infestation. Its common signs include:
- Intense itching – this the symptom I hate the most
- Tiny tickling feeling like something is moving on your scalp or moving your hair slowly
- Bite-marks on the skin – mostly where there is no hair
Some facts on lice
It is good to understand some of its behaviors or just general information so that you can protect yourself better.
- Lice are most commonly found on children probably because it is easier to spread among them as they tend to play in close contact and in groups.
- These parasites do not fly rather, they crawl from one person to another
- They tend to die within 1-2 days once they leave the human body – they cannot survive without a human host
- They can appear in many colors such as, white, black brown etc.
- The type of lice that affects the human being cannot be contracted from pet or an animal. They cannot survive without a human host
- The lifecycle of a louse from egg to adult to death is about 30 days or so.
- The female louse lays about 6-10 eggs every day hence, they multiply fast
If you want more information on lice, check out the CDC website.
Neem is a very popular and common medicinal plant across many cultures beyond Africa. It is used for a variety of health care measures such as fighting skin infections, promoting wound healing, and most importantly, a natural insecticidal.
This property makes it one of the best remedies for treating insects and parasites including lice. A study in 2011 showed that Neem does successfully kill head lice between 1-15 minutes after application.
Where to get it in Nigeria:
You can find this plant easily for free in many countries such as Nigeria, India, West Africa in general, etc. Just check your neighbourhood and get some of its leaves for your use. I am sure from the picture you should recognize this plant.
How to use:
- Undo your braids, hair and remove all attachments or accessories.
- Get a two-hands-put-together handful of the fresh neem leaves
- Pound them in a mortar or pestle or blend them with as little water as possible to make a paste.
- Alternatively, if using the neem powder, use two full tablespoon of the leaf powder
- Add water to make a thick paste. Don’t make it too watery else it will just drip off your head and ruin your clothes.
- Apply to your hair generously from scalp to hair tip
- Cover with a shower cap or a plastic bag
- Cover the plastic bag with a secure and thick scarf.
- Let it steam for 30-40 minutes
- Rinse it off and you can use a shampoo to wash your hair all together
The neem oil has similar properties to the neem plant that is known for its natural anti-parasitic, insecticidal property. Some even use this oil on their babies to prevent insect and mosquito bites at night.
During your lice treatment period, neem oil or any other insecticidal oil such as tea tree oil that eradicates pests, insects and parasites is the only hair oil/cream that should be used on your hair and scalp. Whenever you wash your hair or if you feel that it is dry and need some oil, neem oil is should be used.
Where to get it in Nigeria:
You can find this oil in natural products shops, oil stores, herbal stores etc.
Apple vinegar has numerous uses and applications. In this case, while the apple vinegar does not kill the lice themselves. Its compounds loosen the louse eggs (nits) from the scalp.
I might have forgot to mention, when the Adult louse lays an egg, it secures it with a glue-like substance on the hair shaft which make sit tight and not move away.
How to use:
- Pour the apple vinegar and add water that is about twice the amount of the vinegar i.e in the ratio 1:2. Test it on your skin and see if the concentration is too strong for you. If then, you can add more water to dilute it some more but not too much water.
- Apply it to your hair with a spray bottle or place the solution in a water bottle, close it tightly and puncture a hole on the cap. You can also just rinse your hair with it if you don’t have any of the mentioned two items.
- Leave it to dry and do not rinse it off.
- Comb your hair as it dries
This might come as a surprise for you since I advocate for the use of natural therapies for health care. But as I have said before, sometimes it is best to combine both types of health care for the best outcomes.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that was earlier created for parasites on domestic animals and due to its effectiveness; it was adapted for human use i.e. Human grade tablets were developed.
Numerous studies (1, 2, etc.) have shown the effectiveness of this drug in the form of lotions, tablets, etc. in treating lice, scabies etc. My recommendation for this remedy is to use it for physical application and not oral application.
Caution: do not use this remedy on your pubic area instead, use other recommendations from the list for this sensitive area.
How to use:
- Ground about 2-3 tablets of the drug to powder
- Add them to about a cup of the ordinary shampoo you use. Just enough to cover your hair
- If not using shampoo, add the powdered tablets to about a cup of water
- Apply to your hair from scalp to the hair tip.
- Cover it with a plastic bag or a shower cap for 20-30 minutes
- Rinse it off and towel dry the hair
The successful eradication of lice from your hair or body and your environment requires an effective remedy and patience. While the remedy can be effective, if you do not repeat this process every day at best or every other day, then you will not be able to be lice – free soon.
This is because these parasites are very stubborn and they tend to resist most remedies. It takes much effort to get rid of them. The following plan (2-3 week plan) is necessary if you want to get rid of them fast.
- Wash your hair as usual with a normal shampoo. Try to avoid those lice shampoos as they are fortified with chemical that can penetrate your scalp and get into your body and cause much damage.
- Comb it well with a fine toothed comb and not a wide toothed comb. Like the one that men use. To prevent hair breakage, you can first detangle with a wide toothed comb then use a fine toothed comb to disengage the lice eggs (nits) from your hair strands and shaft.
- Make a Neem hair mask and apply it then let it steam for at-least 30 minutes ideally 1 hour. You can find the recipe I wrote about it in the above remedies section.
- Wash it off.
- Comb and dry your hair.
- Apply neem oil to your scalp and hair shafts from root to hair tips. Apply generously
- Place your hair in an updo, bun, simple braids you can undo the following day, or just tie your hair with a hair band.
- Wear a plastic cap if not, at least cover your head with a scarf for the day to prevent them from crawling to other parts of the body or falling on to your home surfaces.
- Rest day. Just keep your hair covered properly.
- Undo your braids.
- Comb your hair with the fine toothed com; taking the time to thoroughly comb out the lice as much as you can
- Make an apple vinegar – water solution or an ivermectin solution as detailed above.
- Apply some more neem oil generously afterwards and comb thoroughly.
- Put your hair in an easy hair stle and and cover with a scarf properly.
- Secure the scarf or hair cover well so that your hair is not aerated. We want to make uncomfortable environment for them and to suffocate the lice and their eggs.
Rest day just keep your head covered properly.
Repeat this circle between day one and day four for about 1-2 weeks depending on the severity of your condition. If you notice the lice has been eradicated. Continue using the Neem oil for a week more so. This way, all of the lice dies completely else, its eggs can hatch and then your suffering is renewed .
I will advise that you inspect your hair with a fine-toothed comb a week after you have finished your treatment successfully. This is just a final measure to make sure that you are completely lice-free and then you can enjoy your life.
Tip*: This treatment will be most effective faster if you can reduce your hair length and thickness. The more hair volume and length you have, the easier it will be for them to avoid these remedies by hiding in your hair shafts.
- Never share your hair care items such as combs, pins etc. with any one
- Avoid sharing personal items such as beddings, towels, clothes with unknown people
- Avoid using items that have been kept in storage for long as they might be infested with these parasites
- Soak combs, towels and other personal items used during the lice treatment in hot water to kill all of the lice and their possible eggs
A lice infestation is one of those conditions that need fast and consistent action because they multiply very fast and before you know it, they are an army. If you started treatment immediately after confirming the presence of the lice, you might not even need to do a second round of the treatment plan.
I know it is not easy and its so time consuming especially when you are working or have a family. We all know you don’t have much time to spear but eliminating these parasites fast as possible before their numbers overwhelm is key.
I hope I have helped you in some way in treating this very uncomfortable condition. These remedies are that I know by experience, they work if you will just stick to them consistently.
Thank you for being here with me. I wish you the best.