Lice are small insects that live on blood from the scalp. Transmission of lice generally occurs through direct contact because lice crawl but cannot fly or jump. Most commonly occurring in children, lice can be spread by sharing items such as hats, combs, brushes, hair accessories, towels, pillows, clothing, and headphones. The good news is that they do not carry viral or bacterial diseases. But you’ll want to give natural lice treatments a try since you’re pregnant.
Symptoms of lice include an itchy scalp, visible lice on the scalp, and nits (lice eggs) on hair shafts. Lice can be difficult to see as they are small, move quickly, and their nits tend to blend in with hair. You may not even realize you have lice. If it is your first time to have lice, it can take 2 to 6 weeks before you experience any itching.
Natural Lice Treatments
One option for treating lice naturally is to use a fine-toothed nit comb to comb through wet hair. Make sure the hair is wet and lubricated with conditioner. Then, using a fine-toothed comb specifically for lice, comb through your hair from your scalp through the ends, making sure you comb through your entire head at least twice per session.
With each stroke through the hair, check the comb for any lice, and rinse them off. Repeat this every three days for a few weeks. Continue this process for two weeks after you no longer see any lice.
You can also try using essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, neem oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil. Keep in mind that these oils are not required to meet the same efficacy and safety standards as FDA-approved drugs. Prior to use, place a drop on the back of your hand to see if you are allergic to the oil. In rare cases, some individuals are allergic to certain essential oils.
To use, mix 15-20 drops of the essential oil with two ounces of olive oil. Apply to the scalp and hair, and let sit overnight for at least 12 hours. The following morning, comb through your hair, shampoo, rinse and repeat the treatment if necessary.
Other household products can be used to smother the lice. These include olive oil, butter, and mayonnaise. Simply apply the product to the hair and scalp, cover the hair with a shower cap, and let sit overnight.
Once you have treated your hair, you may want to clean various household items as well. While lice cannot survive more than one day without living near a scalp, cleaning certain items that have been used in the past couple of days may be beneficial. Wash clothes, bedding, and stuffed animals in hot water.
Clean any hair care items, such as brushes, combs, and hair accessories in hot water as well. You may want to vacuum the floor in addition to any upholstered furniture. Lastly, place any items that cannot be washed in a sealed plastic bag or container for two weeks.
How to Treat Lice during Pregnancy When Naturally Does Not Work
If natural remedies do not help, your next best option is over-the-counter lotions or sprays. These should be used only if you see a moving head louse. It is not recommended to use lice shampoos and crème rinses as they are not generally effective.
One lotion that has been approved for use by pregnant and breastfeeding women is 4% dimethicone lotion.
Carefully check the label of any other lice treatment products for warnings related to the use of the product if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist before using the product.
To use a lotion or spray, follow the instructions, which may vary depending on what kind of treatment you use. Make sure to cover the scalp through the ends of the hair, and let the treatment sit for the time specified in the directions. After three to five days, check the head for hatching eggs.
Then check again after 10-12 days. Lice treatments may not clear all louse eggs, so it is recommended to use at least two applications.
If the lice persist even after you use an over-the-counter lotion or spray, you may need to visit your doctor for a prescription. Your doctor may recommend medication such as benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia) or malathion (Ovide), both of which are safe to take during pregnancy but not while nursing.
Some medications, including lindane, are not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take. Therefore, it is important to let your doctor know that you are pregnant so they can prescribe you the proper medication.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. DeGrandpre, Z. (2013). Home remedies for head lice: What works?
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, June 18). Head lice.
3. NHS Choices. (2014). Treating head lice.
4. PDR.net. (n.d.). Ulesfia.
5. PDR.net. (n.d.). Ovide.