While over-the-counter and prescription remedies for lice removal are often effective, pregnant women may be hesitant to use these chemicals because of concerns that they might damage the unborn baby. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, contraindicates the use of at least one prescription lice product, lidane shampoo, for pregnant women. Since lice do not go away on their own, treatment is necessary to destroy both the adult lice and their eggs, or nits.
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Before the advent of insecticide products to treat head lice, the only method of eradicating the problem was to physically remove the nits. This method can still be used to remove lice, but it has the disadvantage of being time-consuming. Nit combs have particularly fine teeth that can remove both the adult lice and their nits. Flea combs sold at pet stores can also be used to remove lice and nits from the scalp. According to Dr. Alan Greene, a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and Attending Pediatrician at Packard Children's Hospital, using a hot blow dryer on the hair for 15 minutes before mechanical delousing may improve the effectiveness of this treatment. This combination of hot air and combing can be done twice a day -- once in the morning and once at night.
Smothering kills head lice by cutting off their air supply. Pregnant women with lice can apply a thick, oily substance to the head, such as mayonnaise or petroleum jelly, and cover the coated head with a plastic shower cap. This treatment should be left on the head for eight hours or longer and then washed off. Some women choose to put the substance on the hair before going to bed and let the lice smother overnight. Sometimes, the hair does not wash clean right away, and it may take up to a week to completely remove the oily substance from the hair.
According to Dr. Greene, a solution invented and promoted by the Packard Children's Health Services Pediatric Hotline at Stanford may be effective at removing lice. This solution is made up of 3 tbsp. of olive oil, 1 tsp. of tea tree oil, 1 tsp. of rosemary or eucalyptus oil, and a small amount of regular shampoo. This mixture should be applied to the hair and left on for half an hour under a tight-fitting shower cap. It may require a few rinses to thoroughly remove the mixture after use.
Some types of topical anti-lice medication may be safe for use during pregnancy under certain conditions, explains the CDC. Women who choose to use a topical product should consult their doctor before use, and should try other methods of treatment before using insecticides. Possible ingredients that a doctor may suggest trying include malathion and permethrin.