It’s just a fact of school life. And while there are many commercial products that claim to “kill” lice and their eggs, any experienced nit hunter (i.e. any mother of a primary school girl) will tell you to put your wallet back in your pocket because there’s only one way to get rid of the blighters.
So how do you get rid of nits?
Three words: Comb. Them. Out.
That’s right, getting rid of nits is simply a matter of physically removing them from your child’s hair.
So if you’re going to throw money at the problem, invest in a good quality nit comb.
In my experience, this Nitty Gritty Nit Comb is the best.
But before we get to the best comb-out method, you need to understand a few things about nits and lice so that you can do the job properly:
- Lice are live insects, they move around.
- Nits are the eggs that the lice lay. They don’t move, but when they hatch, they release a live insect.
Here’s a picture of nits and lice (the lice are the bugs, the nits are the small oval things).
- Nits (the eggs) need warmth, so you’ll find them hanging out about 0.5cm from the scalp. Around the scalp, you’ll find them at the nape of the neck and around the ears, because that’s where it’s warmest.
- Lice cement the egg sac to the hair shaft. Which is why you need a nit comb to remove them; they stick to the hair and need to be pushed off with a very fine-toothed comb.
- If the nit is white, it has hatched and is empty. If it is light brown, it has an insect inside it ready to hatch.
- The life cycle of a louse is seven to eight days. So you need to repeat the whole combing out process a week later, to be sure you got them all (in case you missed a few eggs and they have since hatched.)
Getting them GONE
So now we’re clear on a few facts, here’s the most effective way to get rid of nits and lice without using chemicals.
1. Cover your child’s hair with conditioner. This just makes it easier to comb through every strand. And, assuming the conditioner is white, it also makes the lice easier to see on the comb.
2. Work in sections. Start on one side of the head, around the ear, section off a portion of hair that will fit through the comb all at once.
3. Comb slowly from the scalp right to the end. If your child has lice or nits, you’ll see them appear on the comb.
4. Use a tissue to clean out the comb before you go in again.
5. Comb the same section again until the nit comb comes up clean.
6. Now move to the next section.
7. Keep going until you have combed through all of your child’s hair.
Next you need to:
- Treat the entire family. Comb everyone’s hair out.
- Wash all pillows and bedding.
- Clean your nit comb (soak it in vinegar or boil it for 10 minutes)
- Repeat the whole process a week later.
Some mothers claim that maintaining constant vigilance - i.e. a weekly comb-out ritual - is the only way to control the inevitable nit infestations that come along with primary school life.