Home Remedies to Control Head Lice

Assessment of Home Remedies to Control the Human Head Louse, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae)
      As the frequency and level of pediculicide resistance increases throughout the world, the need for novel solutions to control pediculosis has intensified. The development and registration of new pesticides has become so costly that many chemical companies are unwilling to pursue it and health-care providers now face a serious lack of new commercial pediculicides. Many infested people resort to using “home-remedy” approaches that have not been scientifically tested. In this article, we examined the potential value of six purportedly effective “home remedies” (vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, olive oil, mayonnaise, melted butter, and petroleum jelly) to treat head louse infestations and the likelihood of drowning lice by water submersion. Results indicated that only the application of petroleum jelly caused significant louse mortality but no treatment prevented lice from laying eggs. Most home remedy products did little to kill eggs, despite prolonged exposure. Petroleum jelly caused the greatest egg mortality, allowing only 6% to hatch. It was extremely difficult to drown lice, despite extended periods (i.e., 8 hr) of water submersion, suggesting that killing lice by depriving them of oxygen is inefficient. None of the home remedy products we surveyed was an effective means of louse control. This suggests that when treatment failure occurs, an increased amount of time and effort should be focused on alternative chemical pediculicides and/or manual louse removal (i.e., combing) rather than using any of these products.
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