Pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin are the active ingredients in most over-the-counter lice shampoos. Animal studies suggest pyrethroids cause neurological, immune, and reproductive damage. Canadian research also suggests pyrethroids may be associated with behavior problems in children. Head lice is, unfortunately, quite common, affecting 6 million to 12 million U.S. kids every year. But if your child gets sent home from school with a case, don’t panic
Don't Rush to the Drug Store for Toxic Lice Removal Shampoos
The study tested urine samples from 779 Canadian children, aged 6 to 11, and the parents answered questions relating to their child’s behavior. Almost all (97 percent) of the children had pyrethroid breakdown products in their urine.
A 10-fold increase in urinary levels of one specific pyrethroid breakdown product doubled the child’s risk of scoring high for parent-reported behavioral problems, such as inattention and hyperactivity.
A previous study also found that toddlers who had been exposed to pyrethroids while in utero had lower development scores compared to unexposed children. According to a 2006 EPA review, animal research has also shown that even low levels of some of these compounds have an adverse effect on:
|Immune function||Nervous system development||Behavioral development|
Some pyrethroids act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen. Such hormone-disrupting chemicals can raise your levels of estrogen, thereby promoting the growth of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.
And remember, when you apply these chemicals for lice treatment, they go right through your child’s scalp and into his or her bloodstream. Worse still, multiple treatments are often recommended to be effective (and now even that is highly questionable).
While medicated shampoos are touted as the best way to get rid of head lice, you have to decide whether you really want to slather your child’s hair up with pesticides… especially when they may not kill the lice and there are other effective alternatives.
How to Get Rid of Head Lice Naturally
There’s really no reason to apply neurotoxic pesticides to your child’s head. Many will find a combination of coconut oil and manual removal to be quite effective, but you can also try:
1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
- Place an old t-shirt upside down over your child’s head so the collar forms a seal around the scalp.
- Apply DE to your child’s hair, while being careful to keep the dust inside of the t-shirt “bag.”
- Tie off the open end of the t-shirt and massage the DE into your child’s scalp.
- Allow it to sit overnight, then shampoo it out the next day.
- This should be followed by a thorough combing with an extra-fine comb. You may need to repeat the treatment once a week for three weeks.
2. Tea Tree Oil
An application of 1 percent tea tree oil killed 100 percent of head lice after 30 minutes in one study.
To create a tea tree oil solution, follow these steps:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil, 1 ounce of natural shampoo and 3 teaspoons of coconut oil.
- Gently apply the mixture throughout your hair, and then cover it with a shower cap or towel. Leave it for 30 minutes, and then rinse out with warm water.
- While your hair is wet, use a fine comb to remove the dead lice.
3. Hot Air
Various devices that blow hot air are available to help kill head lice. Once such device, the LouseBuster, killed nearly 100 percent of lice eggs and 80 percent of hatched lice. And even when operated at a comfortable temperature, it’s slightly cooler than a standard blow dryer.
According to a study published in the journal American Family Physician, hair dryers have a 47.2 percent success rate in eradicating lice, and a 47.5 success rate in decreasing egg hatch rate. You will need to repeat this method several times to remove the lice completely, though.
4. Salt and Vinegar Mixed With Coconut Oil
A mixture of salt and vinegar can work to dehydrate and, eventually, kill lice on your scalp.
Check out these steps in creating a spray mixture:
- Dissolve one-fourth cup of Himalayan salt in one-fourth cup of warm apple cider vinegar.
- Spray the mixture onto your scalp until it is wet.
- Allow your scalp to dry, and then coat it with a layer of coconut oil.
- Leave the oil for eight hours, and then comb out the dead lice.
- Wash your hair and scalp to remove the aroma created by the mixture.