Head Lice and Natural Treatments
Alternative Treatments: What the NPA Is Saying About Mayonnaise, Vaseline and Tea Tree Oil
SAFETY WARNING: Oils may enhance absorption, therefore, avoid using oil treatments, or oil based hair dressings or conditioners immediately before and after applying pesticidal shampoos.
Non-toxic remedies are obviously a preferred choice over pesticides whenever possible. However, this doesn’t mean that everything touted as “natural” is across-the-board safe.
Many who try “alternatives” have already had failure with readily available pediculicides from the local drug stores. If there is success with such alternatives, we suspect that it may have to do with motivation and the “parent power” behind the effort – rather than any particular pediculicidal or ovicidal property.
No matter which remedy you’re attempting – wrapping the hair in plastic or a shower cap and putting the children to bed is a bad idea. It is also a source of potential harm to use a wrap with any of the pesticidal treatments (whether in bed or not) as it may alter it’s chemistry and absorption rates.
The use of mayonnaise appears to give people a sense of hopefulness and encouragement that they can manage head lice without pesticides. The NPA has received conflicting reports as to its exact effectiveness, but we are encouraged whenever a parent looks towards safer choices than pesticides. Mayo may have not any greater chance of success than many of the commercially available products, however, it definitely involves less risk.
What about Vaseline? Attempts to smother lice on the head are largely unsuccessful and parents then have the additional problem of removing Vaseline from the hair (a difficult task to say the least) as well as removing the lice and nits.
Tea tree oil is a different example. It is touted as safe and natural, yet claims to be a fungicide and bacteriacide. This is a case where “natural” is misleading: if it kills organisms, then it must be treated with respect. Pure tree oil is contraindicated for babies, young children, pregnant women, and some pets. Tea tree oil is not to be used daily, and is toxic to the liver in high doses. High doses can also be irritating to the skin and provoke an allergic reaction in some people.
Effective screening and combing is the ultimate complement to whatever course of action an individual selects. It is impossible to obtain independent scientific data as to the effectiveness and safety on many of the different ideas being circulated about “natural” remedies. Ultimately, it will always be the “parent power” behind the effort that makes the difference.
The National Pediculosis Association,® Inc.
A Non-Profit Organization Serving The Public Since 1983.
The National Pediculosis Association is a non-profit, tax exempt organization that receives no government or agency funding.
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