One of the most dreaded phone calls a parent can receive is the one from the school nurse saying that your child has head lice. It can be difficult to get rid of an infestation. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, usually people try to get rid of lice with an over-the-counter product meant for this purpose. These are usually cream rinses or shampoos that contain insecticides. Not all parents want to use chemicals on their children, so there are a number of common home treatments, such as using mayonnaise and vinegar.
Head-lice treatments either make it easier to remove lice, nits and eggs, or kill those that exist. Even just combing out the nits--without using any additional treatment--is helpful, though only about half as effective combing with using a head-lice treatment containing malathion, according to American Family Physician. Using mayonnaise and vinegar can make it easier to remove lice and nits, as well as possibly killing them.
Alternative methods of treatment are nice to know about since there are reports of resistance to some of the common chemical treatment methods, according to the American Family Physician. The Minnesota Department of Health says that these alternative methods have some advantages, including the fact that they are inexpensive and non-toxic, although they do take longer and it is hard to remove the mayonnaise once the treatment is done.
People use vinegar to help loosen nits from the hair shaft, making it easier to comb them out, according to pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, who specializes in natural treatments that limit childhood exposure to chemicals. It is not a stand-alone treatment; you must still comb out the nits.
Mayonnaise, and other oily treatments such as olive oil or Vaseline, are left on for up to eight hours to give them time to suffocate the lice, and then washed out of the hair. According to Greene, some scientists think that the lice are only put into a dormant state by the mayonnaise, rather than being suffocated, so they must be removed using a nit comb after the mayonnaise treatment is complete.
Keep combing and watching for nits and lice for up to two weeks so that you make sure that you get them all. Whichever treatment method you use, repeat it to catch any newly hatched nits or nits that were missed the first time. None of the treatments are guaranteed to kill the eggs, so take this step to keep from getting infested again.
American Family Physician and the Minnesota Department of Health both state that home remedies such as vinegar and mayonnaise have not been studied enough to prove their efficacy. However, William Sears, a physician who has written more than 40 parenting books, says that this is a harmless treatment that can get rid of lice, but warns that it is messy and that it can be hard to wash out the mayonnaise. Greene recommends using a degreasing dish soap for this purpose.