Some of the things in life that tend to bug humans the most often end up being some of the smallest things anyone could imagine. Take head lice, for instance. Who would have thought that such a tiny creature could be so hard to get rid of?
Methods Used to Combat Head Lice
When it comes to getting rid of head lice, it seems everyone has an opinion on what works. In 1200 BCE, the Chinese used mercury to control lice infestations. In 430 BCE, Egyptian priests shaved their entire bodies every other day in order to control lice populations.
By the 15th Century, pepper, grease, seawater, vinegar, quick-silver (mercury) and lichen, among other items, were used together and/or separately to either coat the head or be sewn up into a strip of cloth that was then bound about the head. In the 1536, humans rid themselves of head lice by spiting a mouthful of warm date meal directly onto the skin. In desperation, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the hair and scalp were doused in kerosene in hopes it would suffocate the head lice.
Did any of these methods work? We can assume that the above methods did not work, as they have not been continued, and every generation seems to come up with a new idea; which, they feel, just like earlier generations did, will help them win the fight against head lice infestation.
Head Lice Home Remedies That Don't Work
Most home remedies for head lice require the victim to wet their hair, completely saturate the wet hair and scalp with the currently designated product, and then cover the head with a shower cap or plastic wrap for 30 minutes to eight hours.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that no matter how many brilliant and unique concoctions we can come up with, home remedies have not been scientifically proven to work. Although some of the head lice may be destroyed by these home methods, if even one head louse is left standing, the infestation will not come to an end anytime soon.
The reason it's hard to get rid of head lice is mainly because of their genetic makeup. When threatened by adverse conditions and products, adult head lice cling to the hair shaft and go into a sort of animated freeze until the danger has passed.
While they are unable to remain in this state indefinitely, they can hold their breath in this manner for more than 12 hours. This means, of course, that if you're extremely lucky, some adult head lice and nymphs (newborn head lice) will be suffocated, but without a doubt not all of them will be. To make matters worse, lice nits (eggs) cannot be killed in this manner.
Some people want to try to kill head lice with harsh chemicals such as those found in permanent solutions and hair dye. While these products might do some good as far as poisoning the insects, they can also cause damage to the human wearing them. It is especially important with children that harsh chemicals not be used to treat head lice infestations.
Why Some Home Remedies Appear to Work
We often hear stories of head lice being defeated with everyday household products, so it's hard to know what to believe. As far as science is concerned, however, while success stories sometimes do occur, the reason for the success often has more to do with nit picking parents, who not only used one of the below mentioned products, but who also diligently went through their child's hair literally with a fine-toothed comb and removed every live bug as well as every nit.
Clean clothes, bedding and bathroom linens, as well as outdoor garments and indoor clothing are also a good idea, although any lice living off the human head cannot survive for more than a day or two. Parents must also check their own heads and those of any other children in the household and follow the same diligent policy all over again in about seven to 10 days. Some head lice remedies that are supposed to coat hair shafts and scalp well enough to suffocate adult head lice include:
- Dish soap
- Olive oil
- Petroleum jelly
- Certain hair gels