Have lice been bugging your family lately? You’re not alone.
Professional delousers in NYC and the surrounding areas say they have seen an unfortunate uptick in outbreaks of these icky, hair-residing insects.
“There was a resurgence of lice last year. But this year it’s been worse than ever,” Adrian Picheny, of New York’s Lice Treatment Center, told Gothamist in late December.
Adding insult to injury, Lice Busters president Daniel Harel told the outlet that recent infestations are affecting a larger population of children than usual.
Even without a surge, an estimated 6 to 12 million kids 3 to 11 years old contract lice each year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what’s a parent to do when their child brings home micro-size hitchhikers? Many turn to bizarre remedies such as drenching their little one’s head in mayonnaise or vinegar, or sending them to bed with olive oil-soaked hair.
But do these condiments actually rid hair of lice? Here’s what health professionals say are the best treatments.
Although the CDC states that it “does not have clear scientific evidence” that olive oil is an effective lice remedy, some medical experts and health departments lean in favor of making scalp salad dressing.
The Barron Area School District in Wisconsin put out a lice guide for parents that details an olive oil treatment that should be repeated every four days.
Northwell Health pediatrician Dr. Lauren Adler, meanwhile, explained that olive oil can smother and kill lice. Users should wear a shower cap overnight to suffocate the bugs, which can survive without breathing for hours.
The oil also helps remove lice eggs from hair, she added.
Adler also said that white vinegar can go a long way to dissolve the adhesive a female louse uses to lay her eggs.
For its part, the Gibson County Health Department of Indiana put forth guidance that using olive oil should coincide with a three-week life cycle of the lice. The agency recommends using olive oil on days one, two, three, nine, 13, 17 and 21.
Hold the mayo?
Like olive oil, the CDC can’t back up that mayonnaise is proven to kill lice, but Adler said it can come in handy because thick, jelly-like substances clog lice breathing holes.
She suggests applying it overnight and topping with a shower cap before washing it out the next morning and restarting the process a week later.
Vaseline or styling gel makes a fine — and perhaps more tasteful — substitute, according to the pediatrician.
Research has shown Cetaphil cleansers to be 96% effective in the treatment of lice. Adler recommends waiting two minutes after application, combing through the hair and then blow-drying it until it’s completely dry. These steps should be repeated within one to two weeks.
Lice-killing shampoos and prescription-only benzyl alcohol lotion are also highly touted — as is seeking the professionally administered vacuum-like “LouseBuster.”
Research from 2006 observed that the LouseBuster killed off nearly 100% of eggs and 80% of living lice.