History of Head Lice Treatment

Head lice are species specific parasites. Lice can not live without this species specific host. Human lice are parasitic specifically to the human species.

Head Lice: Earliest Records

Lice were prevalent even before the recording of history had begun. The earliest recorded presence of head lice dates back over one million years ago. This research was completed using DNA technology, and has identified two distinct lineages. The fact that head lice have been prevalent for over one million years suggests that humans and lice have a long and itchy history together. This research is currently being used for the development of a time line for human evolution.

Fact: Lice have been found on ancient Egyptian mummified bodies.


Historically, lice were common and extended all orders of society, surfs to royals. The presence of bugs and parasites was inevitable. Lice are responsible for the transmission of the epidemic typhus. The first recorded typhus epidemic caused by lice infestations was located in Europe and Asia.

Head Lice Treatment: Earliest Records

The earliest records of head lice treatment in the United States is from the early 1800's. The Wisconsin Historical Museum has a bone lice comb from the frontier days. Fort Crawford was the location of a bone lice comb, excavated in the early 1930's. It has long been known that Fort Crawford was not the healthiest of environments, but served as an enclosed parasite heaven for diseases not limited to lice, but typhus, dysentery, malaria, and cholera. The close quarters of the Fort provided more than adequate modes of transmission, providing a more than hospitable habitat for lice to thrive.

World War II

Head lice became less prevalent during the period of World War II (mid 1900's). This was due to the use of a chemical agent. This chemical agent was a powerful pesticide that was utilized to destroy mosquitoes that spread malaria. It also had effects on decreasing the populations of lice that spread typhoid. This chemical agent is still carefully utilized today as a pesticide agent, but it remains to have many harmful side effects including toxicity.

Household Treatments

The first treatments were not medicinal, but home made. These include the use of such substances as Vaseline, mayonnaise, and olive oil. By completely covering the scalp and hair with one of these substances, it is possible to suffocate the lice and nits. These treatment methods are not commonly utilized today. Another household treatment involved the use of gasoline. Gasoline would be put on the hair and scalp of the individual, with the thought that gasoline would be toxic to the lice and nits. This has been repeatedly disproved. Do not try this at home. Gasoline is dangerous!

Current Treatment Methods

Current treatment methods are typically prescribed or over the counter methods. Most involve the use of a comb for the removal of nits, and a shampoo or topical additive. This process must be repeated and the home must be properly cleaned to prevent re-infestation. Most over the counter or prescription treatments can be dangerous and more so if the treatment must be repeated a number of times. There exist all natural methods for the treatment of lice infestations that are much safer and less dangerous.



Photo Credit: myheadlicetreatment.com

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