Lice that infest hair and scalp are particularly common among schoolchildren who spread them through direct contact. Nits are the eggs of these lice. Once laid by lice, nits rest dormant on the scalp and take weeks to hatch. That’s why someone with an infestation of lice can be treated and the lice gotten rid of without eliminating the nits; they therefore keep getting re-infested, so treating head lice without first determining if nits are present is a mistake.
The best way to identify the presence of nits is to use a fine toothed comb specially designed for finding them. Take the comb and some thick hair conditioner and find a room with lots of light. Good nit combs are metal and typically cost about $12 (e.g. LiceMeister or Nit Free Terminator comb). Without a good nit comb you will not be able to remove the eggs. Sit the subject down on a firm chair and cover the neck and upper body with a towel to prevent too much mess.
Unlike dandruff, nits do not come away from hair shafts when pulled or shaken; they stick so that the hair comes out with them (For dandruff removal, learn how to treat dandruff). Thoroughly covering the hair with conditioner allows the comb to move more smoothly through the hair while keeping nits from sticking to the hair.
Look for the living adult lice scuttling around; they have pinchers in front. The small, white “crawly” things are the little immature lice. The microscopic things attached to the hair shaft are the eggs. Tiny oval-shaped parasites, nits are easy to spot. As an infection progresses, they move further away from the scalp. They can be found in a range of colors, brown, tan, and cream through yellow. Even if no lice are spotted, you can be certain, having found nits, that the suspect has an infestation of lice.
How to get rid of nits
- If a child’s scalp is sore or bleeding, that child should be examined by a physician before proceeding with any treatment.
- Assuming the hair is still adequately conditioned, separate and clip it into four sections and start combing, stopping to wipe the lice and eggs on a vinegar-soaked towel every few strokes. The head should be held over a newspaper to catch them. Clean the comb frequently with a tissue or paper towel. Discard the newspaper and tissue/paper towel in a disposable bag and place the bag in the garbage. Continue until all the sections are done. Consider shaving off all the hair and shampooing normally to avoid all of the following steps.
- Repeat, wash the comb, and start going through the hair with it again until not a single egg or nit can be seen.
- Wash the hair with a shampoo or lotion specially formulated to kill lice and nits. (Nits are tougher to kill than lice.) Lean over the sink/tub/basin, limiting the shampoo to the scalp or neck. Protect the eyes so that the shampoo does not get in them. Should it get into the eyes, wash out thoroughly with fresh water immediately.
- Soak the hair with white vinegar and then apply, for 30 to 60 minutes, a damp towel soaked in the same solution.
- Comb out the hair again with the fine-toothed nit comb to remove dead lice and nits.
- Clothing, hats, stuffed toys, bed linens, towels, etc, should either be discarded or washed thoroughly with soap and very hot water and then soaked in a solution of white vinegar and water. Use the hottest setting on the dryer and dry for the longest time you can without harming the fabric. Items which cannot be washed should be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for at least 10 days. The mattress should be sanitized and bedroom vacuumed thoroughly. Combs, brushes, curlers, and hair ties should be boiled or thrown out. Quarantine clothing in a sealed plastic bag (squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing) for at least two weeks; any remaining lice will die from lack of air.
- Wait a day, and then repeat the process, sitting down, putting in the conditioner and combing through the hair. You could be surprised after the last comb-through that the little parasites are back; if they are, however, they should be back in greatly decreased numbers. Again, comb through the hair until not one of louse shows up. Repeat again, and again, and yet again. Usually two weeks will pass until all the lice are gone.
- The hair of all family members should be checked and treated if necessary. A daily nit check is advisable for at least 10 days following a treatment. Repeat treatment if it’s necessary.
- To prevent future infections, always quarantine anything suspect such as a hat purchased from a thrift store. Seal that stuff in an air tight plastic bag for at least two weeks before letting it into your home. Alternatives are to place the plastic bag in a freezer or outside in the hot sun. Avoid trying on hats at yard sales or thrift stores, or hanging your coat or hat on a hook in a public place that could be contaminated.
How to remove nits naturally
Experts recommend that any treatment of lice and nits include a commercial medicated shampoo designed just for that purpose. Are head lice something you really want to mess around with? If it is, here are some homegrown approaches:
- Simply wash the hair with diluted vinegar and rinse with water.
- Douse the hair in olive oil or mayonnaise, which dissolves the exoskeletons of the lice and their nits. Wrap the hair in a plastic bag overnight. You can also try a 50-50 solution of mineral oil and vinegar. Then wash the hair with dish soap instead of regular shampoo to more easily remove the oil and vinegar.
- In the summer, go outside after applying plenty of conditioner, and use the strongest stream you can get from a garden hose to wash lice and nits out of your hair. Follow up with a nit comb for the stragglers.
- Blow-dry the hair with very hot air whenever it feels itchy.
- If you dye or bleach your hair, the ammonia in the process may possibly kill off lice and nits. (For a guide on dyeing you hair, learn how to dye your hair with henna)
- Some claim that using coconut shampoo helps keep lice away.
If you enjoyed learning this article, you’ll surely enjoy reading how to get rid of head lice.
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