It's the question on every mums lips - just how can I get rid of head lice when they suddenly appear?
With reports of a 'super breed' of head lice hitting the UK back in 2015, it's never been more difficult for parents to control an outbreak of those uninvited little 'guests'.
Causing even more worry is the new policy implemented by the NHS last summer which has restricted children's access to nit kits.
According to Dr Paul Stillman, the super breed of head lice have a mutated gene which is resistant to ordinary head lice treatments. There was a first reported UK case in June (2016) and America has been experiencing this for a while.
Dr Paul Stillman said that the resistance has been built up because of people 'overusing products' and that now many lice are immune to pyrethroids which are chemicals that kill insects and a major ingredient in many head lice treatments.
The National Pediculosis Association, a charity that specialises in the infestation of lice has reminded parents that 'manual removal is crucial. Since head lice move quickly throughout the head, it may be helpful to have two people checking an infested person at the same time'.
And with 8% of children in the UK having head lice at any one time, it's a problem every parent will have struggled to combat. Just thinking about it makes our heads itch!
Those pesky critters are incredibly easy to catch and cause a nightmare for families of young children, but with so many head lice products and head lice treatments around it can be hard to know what to try.
Here, we take a look at what head lice are, and the best products and natural remedies for getting rid of them. But as well as trying the suggested products make sure to hoover where any hair may have fallen, put your child's toys on a hot tumble dry and hot wash their sheets as preventative methods.
Combs at the ready!
What are head lice?
- Head lice are tiny insects without wings. They live near the scalp and feed off blood.
- Head lice lay eggs which attach to the hair about 5mm away from the scalp. These eggs are called nits.
- All children (and adults) can get head lice - it doesn't matter how clean the hair is, head lice just like to live somewhere warm.
- Itching isn't an early sign of the lice - if your child has an itchy head they may have had head lice for up to 3 months.
- Head lice spread by head-to-head contact (which children get a lot of when they're playing together). They rarely spread from something like a hat, because they die very quickly when they're away from the scalp.
- Research suggests that head lice are becoming resistant to traditional treatments that contain pesticides, so more treatments that smother the head lice are appearing.
Best head lice treatment:
Lyclear is applied to dry hair, massaged in and left for 15 minutes. It doesn't contain insecticides - it kills the head lice by blocking their breathing holes.
GoodtoKnow tester Julie's verdict:
How effective was Lyclear Spray Away? 'It was very effective and got rid of the lice.'
Was it easy to use? 'It was really easy to use - a lot easier than liquids and a lot less messy.'
Was it pleasant to use? 'The smell was actually really nice, like liquorice. Even my nine-year-old son said: 'Who's been eating liquorice? I want some!'
Would you use it again? 'I'd more than likely use it again if I saw it in the pharmacy.'
Marks out of 10? 'I'd rate it 10/10'
Buy it for £9 from Boots (opens in new tab).
Hedrin Once is applied to dry hair and left for 15 minutes then washed out. It's recommended that you then comb through the hair with a nit comb to remove any eggs that are still attached to the hair. Hedrin claim head lice can't build up a resistance to it because it doesn't contain any insecticides.
GoodtoKnow tester Lindsey's verdict:
How effective was Hedrin Once? 'It seemed to do the trick - all of the lice were dead when I combed through Charlie's hair afterwards and I haven't seen any signs of life since.'
Was it easy to use? 'It was a little messy to use as it was really runny. Ones I've used in the past have had a thicker consistency.'
Was it pleasant to use? 'There was hardly any smell and it only needed to be left on for 15 minutes which is great when you've got an impatient child.'
Would you use it again? 'I would definitely use it again. Knowing that lice can't build up a resistance to it is even better.'
Marks out of 10? 'I'd give it 9/10 and would recommend it to my friends too.'
Buy it for £5 from Boots (opens in new tab).
3. Not Nice to Lice
Not Nice to Lice works by lathering onto wet hair, leaving on for 10 minutes and rinsing out, applying a conditioner and brushing through with a fine-toothed comb. Not Nice to Lice claims to have a pleasant peppermint smell, is insecticide free and says head lice can't build up resistance to it.
GoodtoKnow tester Nicola's verdict:
How effective was Not Nice to Lice? 'The treatment was very good, it eradicated the lice.'
Was it easy to use? Yes but it's better to do the treatment while in the bath and then wash it off. A previous one we'd used had to be left on.'
Was it pleasant to use? 'It had a much nicer smell than the other products on the market. The bottle contains plenty of solution to do a few treatments, even if treating long hair.'
Would you use it again? 'Yes, I would use it again.'
Marks out of 10? '9/10 - a very good treatment.'
Buy it for £7.19 from expresschemist (opens in new tab).
Head lice treatment: natural remedies
If you're not too keen on the head lice products that are available in the shops, there are some natural head lice home remedies you can try too.
1. Mayonnaise Cover the hair in mayonnaise and put a shower cap over the top. Leave on overnight and wash it out in the morning. The mayonnaise will smother the head lice, but you'll still need to comb out the remaining nits (eggs).
2. Olive oil Use the same method as with the mayonnaise - olive oil is also said to smother the lice.
3. Comb it out You could forget all the products and just use a comb. It will take you a while as you'll have to comb through the hair in very small sections - but if you're thorough then it's likely to be effective. Dip the comb in hot water in between each brush so you're not just moving the head lice around - and repeat a few times over the next few days to make sure you've got rid of all the eggs.
4. Coated comb Try a combination of techniques by covering your comb in a smothering liquid such as olive oil or almond oil (as mentioned above). This is a less messy version of covering the hair and gives you some extra power behind your combing.
5. Disinfect your comb Another little tip is to soak your head lice comb in vinegar for 30 minutes or boil in water for 10 minutes to keep it sterilised.
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