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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

Head lice

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A woman writes in to say that her 7-year-old son has head lice; as his hair is very short, it's easy to comb through

A woman writes in to say that her 7-year-old son has head lice; as his hair is very short, it's easy to comb through. She's also treating herself, however, and she's got very thick, shoulder-length hair. It's hard to get the nit comb through all the hair. What's out there that works? Apparently nothing chemical will work in the long term, as the little creatures are adept at becoming quickly immune to treatment. One thing that keeps them at bay, however, is to comb sodium laurel sulphate free Green People conditioner through the hair every 3 days. Follow this with the Bug Buster kit, which UK residents can obtain on prescription. However, one GP uses regular mayonnaise on her own child! Before going to bed, completely cover the head with mayonnaise, then wrap cling film tightly around the head. Cover the pillow (it stains). Repeat the process once a week for 3 weekends, washing it out with shampoo and some washing-up liquid. Another reader suggests searching health food stores for quassia chips (wood chips from the quassia amara tree). Boil these in water for about 10 minutes, then strain the liquid and massage into the hair without rinsing. Before adding the quassia liquid, comb the hair repeatedly with conditioner and a nit comb. Another option is a product called DELACET - a "unique dual-action flower extract" free of artificial colours, additives or preservatives - that is available on NHS prescription. It does not require prolonged combing and is suitable for all hair types. One woman recommends neem oil brushed through the hair and preferably left on overnight (again, it would be wise to cover the pillow with an old towel to prevent staining). You could also try rinsing the hair with vinegar. You can use it neat, or dilute it with enough hot water to reach a comfortable temperature for pouring over the head. With your thick hair, lean over the bath and brush the hair downward before wetting it. For a short-haired child, probably sitting in the bath is easiest. Then soak the hair and scalp with the vinegar solution and start combing. Be aware that it stings if you get it in the eyes, and it also seems to sting the scalp the first one or two times you use it. It works in several different ways: First, it knocks out the little dearies so they can't run away from the comb. This means you only have to go all round the head once or twice instead of many times. The second way the vinegar works is to loosen the glue that holds the eggs to the hair. Some of these will come out in the comb, and some will be rinsed away later. After the initial wet combing, the hair may be too dry to allow the shampoo to lather, so rinse again with vinegar solution and then apply the shampoo and lather it up. You can comb again at this stage too. Finally, rinse as normal with plain water. The vinegar seems to continue working at loosening any nits still clinging to the hair, and these come out more easily the next time. Prevention would of course be a lot easier - combing the hair with a little lavender oil each morning seems to work a treat. And there's a theory that head lice like sugar, so diet may play a part.

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