Lice! The last thing you want to see on your hair. But you can’t help it, especially if you have a preschooler at home. In the United States, head lice infestation is most common among pre-school children attending child care and elementary schoolchildren. And of course, from these kids head lice get spread to household members of infested children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.
Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. If you come in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice, then you are at greatest risk. However, spread by contact with clothing such as coats, hats, scarves, or other personal belongings such as combs, towels, or brushes used by an infested person is rare. Are you worried that bad personal hygiene or cleanliness led to lice infestation? Well, hygiene or cleanliness has nothing to do with getting head lice. Once infested, they feed on human blood several times a day.
So, what to do for lice-free hair? As you know, there are several over-the-counter medicines to treat lice. You may get shampoos or lotions to treat head lice. But you need to worry about their side effects. Home remedies are often the safe method to address these issues. And tea tree oil is such an effective home remedy to ward off lice.
Tea Tree Oil Magic
For the uninitiated, here we explain more about tea tree oil. This essential oil is derived mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Also known as melaleuca oil, it has been widely used for medicinal purpose in Australia for at least the past 100 years. It is known to have natural antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, thus, offering many health benefits to you.
The insecticidal activity of tea tree oil is due to the presence of two major constituents – 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol.1 It is found that 1 percent tea tree oil solution is capable of killing 100 percent head lice within 30 minutes.2 Compared to coconut oil, lavender oil and peppermint, tea tree oil is most efficacious in repelling lice.3 Tea tree oil in combination with lavender oil is also found to prevent some feeding by lice on treated skin.
How To Apply Tea Tree Oil?
Before you try the oil, it is best to conduct a patch test. The oil contains compounds that may irritate your skin. Sometimes, it can cause an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis. Try a small drop on the back of your hand. If there is no rash or itchy reaction, then you are good to go. Apply a few drops of tea tree oil on your scalp and let it sit overnight. Next day morning, comb your hair to remove the dead lice. Wash your hair with a shampoo and conditioner containing tea tree oil. Do not think that lice will go off in just one treatment. You will have to repeat this procedure two to three times a week.
As a word of caution, do not swallow tea tree oil as it has severe side effects. It is only meant for topical application.
|↑1||Mills, Clive, Brian V. Cleary, John J. Walsh, and John F. Gilmer. “Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase by tea tree oil.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 56, no. 3 (2004): 375-379.|
|↑2||Di Campli, Emanuela, Soraya Di Bartolomeo, Patricia Delli Pizzi, Mara Di Giulio, Rossella Grande, Antonia Nostro, and Luigina Cellini. “Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs.” Parasitology research 111, no. 5 (2012): 1985-1992.|
|↑3||Canyon, Deon V., and Rick Speare. “A comparison of botanical and synthetic substances commonly used to prevent head lice (Pediculus humanus var. capitis) infestation.” International Journal of Dermatology 46, no. 4 (2007): 422-426.|