"How lousy! I've got lice."
Head louse treatment options for dreadlocks

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Lice: a controversial topic. This head louse treatment article attacks the issue right at the root.

First of all, "No." You are not going to be treated to a picture of head louse on the pages of MyDreadlocks.com. Click on the previous link if you really insist, however, then come on back.

With that out of the way, we can focus on the task at hand: head louse treatment.

Many uneducated -- and sometimes all too vocal -- bystanders think that having dreadlocks predisposes you to lice infestations. This is not true, of course. Lice aren't choosy creatures. Anyone can get head lice. Family income level, ethnicity or hairstyle are not important factors in determining the probability of getting a visit from them.

Attack Plan: Full frontal head louse treatment

If you or a friend do find a head louse or two in your dreads then here's what to do:

1. Get the nits
Nit is the term for the egg of a head louse. Nit removal is the most important aspect of head louse treatment.

How to get rid of nits in dreadlocks? Remember, it's not like you can use a nit comb (by far, the most popular and successful way of removing nits). Instead, nit removal will need to focus on heat.

Patricia Neptune, a Trinidadian trichologist and hair stylist, uses custom formulations for head louse treatment at her salon, The Beautique. "Heat always works for destruction of these organisms," she said. Deep steaming, infrared heat lamps and scalp treatments are her preferred methods of attack.

2. Get the lice
Louse (or plural, lice) is the term for the adult form of the creature. Lice measure about 1/8" (2 - 3mm) when fully grown and are visible to the naked eye.

There are commercial head louse treatment applications, too. A new one on the market is "Louse Buster." It's for health practitioners and trained professional use. The tactic of choice is heat once again but don't go thinking that you can whip out your blow dryer as a head louse treatment.

"Too much heat is a bad thing," said Randall Block, President and COO of Louse Buster, "There's a safety issue. You can cause burns on the scalp if the blow dryer is left in place for too long. You need the right volume of airflow and technique."

So what's one to do if they're not a health practitioner or trained lice buster? "The comb has been around for 2,000 years. Use that or enough time and patience and there's no question about it; you'll get rid of them." continued Randall.

You could consider one of those insecticidal shampoos or a home remedy for head louse removal, though.

3. Clean the house, clothing and bedding
Although instinctual, there's no point in throwing everything in the washing machine (or in the garbage, which is completely unnecessary by the way) until you've done the first two parts of the head louse treatment above.

When ready, be sure to wash every fabric that came into contact with the infected person within the past 48 hours (lice can't live off of a human body for more than that long) with your regular detergent using hot water then dry it the dryer on a hot setting.

4. Monitor for two weeks
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 every other day until there are no further signs of infestation. Step 3 can be repeated weekly.

I'm too embarrassed! Give me a home remedy

Not ready to ask a loctician or other seasoned pro to help you and want a home remedy for head louse removal for those dreadlocks? Try this:

At-home head louse treatment

Soak your dreads in coconut oil. In fact, you can use any vegetable based oil you'd like (i.e. olive, jojoba, shea nut etc). If the smell gets to you, then rub in a few drops of essential oil with your hands. Essentially, what you're doing is making it harder for the nits to attach to the hair.

Let the oil penetrate your locks for 10-15 minutes, then sit down with a mirror -- or a brave, meticulous friend who has a lot of time and patience -- to remove the nits. This is literally where the term "nit picking" comes from, by the way!

De-nit/De-louse the locks one at a time from root to tip. When a lock is done, dip it in hot water (as close to boiling as possible if you and/or your helper has steady hands) for a few seconds to encourage any stragglers to let go of your hair. Be sure to change this water frequently. Make it easier on yourself and section off the hair as you go along so that you know which locks have been done and how much farther you have left to go.

All done? Wash your hair as you normally would. Added bonus to this head louse treatment: The oil you used gave your locks an extra conditioning boost!

Remember, you're going to be repeating this process every other day until there are no signs of infestation left.

Prevention: How to stop the madness

Simple really: stop sharing stuff.

Don't have dread parties where everyone shares the same rattail comb to start up and/or maintain their wicked dreaddies. Sharing beads, dread sleeves, dreadlock hats and tams with anyone is also not a good idea; no matter how cool it looks or how clean you think it is.

In general, children are more susceptible to head lice than adults. More than 80% of the infestations happen in kids. That means, young dreadlock wearers should be cautioned against sharing items as well as reducing the amount of "huggy wuggy cuddly time" they spend with friends in the school yard.

Lice: Fact or Fiction

Darlene Miller of Lice911, a Canadian head lice removal service, has heard it all; from using kerosene to Clairol to get rid of "cooties". Here are some of the more popular myths she's encountered in her lice busting activities:

You can get lice from animals.
FICTION: Lice are a parasite that only feast on human blood.

Lice jump from person to person.
FICTION: Sorry. Lice don't have wings and their legs aren't that strong. They are pretty fast though so once they find a new strand of hair to hang on to, they're on there until you take them off.

Coloring your hair will get rid of lice
FICTION: Uh, well, it'll make them trendy but it won't kill them.

As an anecdotal side note, Darlene says that she's yet to see a person with dreadlocks have lice. "Over the years, I've screened five to 10 people with dreadlocks for lice but all were clear."

What would her suggested approach be for loc wearers with lice?

"It depends. The thicker or tighter the dreadlocks the harder they would be to remove." Her approach is chemical-free and natural so if you can't get at the nits with a comb then she'd say removing the locks may be in the cards.

Three experts, a step-by-step head louse treatment and a home remedy. Whether your head louse treatment is done by a professional or at home, make sure that the approach is thorough as leaving just one nit can cause complete re-infestation if it manages to hatch.

If you do have lice, then applying the information here means you won't have them for long.


Links (each opens a new window)

» HeadLice.org - If you try an over the counter treatment (i.e. shampoo with insecticide) that does not work, visit headlice.org to report it.

From this website

» Five easy steps on how to wash, condition and otherwise maintain your dreadlocks

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