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How to Get Rid of Head Lice Permanently

Meg is a registered nurse and mom with over 15 years of experience dealing with anything and everything having to do with kids.

Sometimes it feels like head lice just keep coming back

Sometimes it feels like head lice just keep coming back

When Lice Won't Go Away

You've scrubbed. You've scoured. You've combed, picked, cried, cringed, and cowered. You've tried every over-the-counter product and home remedy and even followed your neighbor's advice of wrapping your child's olive-oil-soaked tresses in a plastic shower cap overnight.

The results? Your kid smells like a summer salad and still has lice.

Facts About Head Lice

  • Lice reproduce quickly: They literally go from being an egg to laying eggs in ten days!
  • Nits (lice eggs) are coated with a glue-like substance that makes them stick stubbornly to hair strands.
  • If you leave behind even one nit, your child will be loaded with active lice in less than two weeks.
Do you know what a nit looks like?

Do you know what a nit looks like?

How to Get Rid of Lice, Step-by-Step

So how do you get rid of them? Simple: Good old-fashioned hard work and persistence. Here's what you need to do:

First, set aside a block of time (at least 2-3 hours) in which to work on your child's head. Pop in a Disney movie and beef up on the age-appropriate distractions, you're in for a tedious and nerve-jangling experience.

What you will need:

  • A fine-toothed comb made specifically for the purpose of combing out lice. You can find them in most drugstores, either alone or as part of a kit.
  • Hair bands or clips if your child has medium-length or long hair.
  • A well-lit area, preferably next to a window, with plenty of natural light.
  • A magnifying glass or text magnifier (also available at most drugstores).
  • Manicure scissors if you have them.
  • A plastic Zip-Lock bag or garbage bag and tissues for disposing of the "harvested" lice and nits.

Step 1

Using the comb, carefully separate the hair into 1-inch square sections. Use the hair bands or clips to hold each section in place. The goal here is to have a grid from which to work one section at a time. This will help ensure that no spot is missed.

Step 2

Working one section at a time, slowly comb the hair through, starting at the scalp and pulling all the way to the end of the hair, wiping off anything the comb grabs with a tissue and immediately placing that tissue into the Zip-Lock or garbage bag. Plan to spend at least 10-15 minutes of combing per section. Use the magnifying glass to check your work: If any nits are too small for the comb to pick up, you must use your fingers to pull the nit along the hair strand until it comes off.

Step 3

Once you have carefully combed through all sections, look through the entire head again, and then use an over-the-counter lice shampoo treatment (such as RID or Lice MD) if desired. Follow the directions exactly as written, and do not treat the hair more often than directed, as the chemical pesticide can be dangerous if misused!

Step 4

Wash everything that may have come into contact with the lice (bedding, clothing, towels, etc.) in hot water and dry in your dryer's hottest setting.

Step 5

Check your child's head every single day for the next three weeks. I cannot over-emphasize this last step! Once your child has been nit-free for three consecutive weeks, pat yourself on the back! You did it!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Mom from South Africa on September 16, 2019:

Hi all mommies Im Natalie

Im from South africa and selling a lice shampoo that kills all lice and makes the nits glue loose after an hour. AMAZING!!!!

All natural and safe for kids with astma and allergies....

Anyone interested??

a mum on August 27, 2017:

Tried this & everything else for a year. None of it works. Stop pushing this waste of time.

Momma on July 25, 2017:

I don't have 3 hrs to comb out infested hair. what other option do I have I tried so much already

craig on March 28, 2017:

how does this get rid of it forever?

Sally on March 04, 2017:

I'm sick of my daughter catching lice if I use lice medicine her hair falls out I cant find baby lice any where

aaaaaaa on February 27, 2016:

Pagel silly article I do not rate it