Desperate parents are willing to try almost anything to rid their children of lice. Lice shampoo and nit combs are staples of the school year, but unfortunately in the past decade or so, lice have developed resistance to many of the lice shampoos.
The latest prescription product approved to treat lice is Ulesfia, a benzyl alcohol formulation that smothers the critters. It is pricey, though, at $45 for a bottle. That is enough to treat one head of short hair. For long hair, you may need two or three bottles for a single treatment.
It is no wonder that home remedies to smother lice have become popular. In one version, the cleanser Cetaphil is used to drench the hair. Use a blow-dryer to create a hard "shell," which is left on overnight. Shampoo it out in the morning.
One last-resort remedy to suffocate lice is old-fashioned petroleum jelly. Let us warn you, though, that Vaseline is extremely difficult to get out of the hair. Here are some tactics parents have tried: "My toddler 'washed' her hair with Neosporin (which contains petrolatum). I discovered that using Dawn dish-washing liquid cut through the greasy mess."
The most complete advice comes from the mother who initially wrote us about Vaseline back in 1997: "Treat the head lice by coating the children's hair with Vaseline overnight (with a shower cap). Remove the Vaseline as follows:
"1. Use baby oil to remove the Vaseline in the hair.
"2. Shampoo the hair as many times as necessary with a cheap dish detergent (no lotions) to cut through the baby oil.
"Dish detergent can sting the eyes, so be very careful to make sure your child closes and covers the eyes with a washcloth.
"The most frustrating thing about my experience was that I contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was told that some strains of lice had developed resistance, but not in this country. I was following all the instructions properly and being treated as if I was not doing anything right. Just a few years later, the CDC announced that they were finding head lice resistant to common chemical treatments."
Another person shared his advice:
"I had an experience with motor oil, which has properties similar to petroleum jelly. Never mind how I managed to get motor oil in my hair.
"After getting motor oil in my hair, I took a shower immediately and tried to wash the stuff out. It didn't work very well, and there was quite an oily residue remaining. Then I remembered Campsuds, a camping soap manufactured by Sierra Dawn products. I've used the stuff for 30 years and found that it works as a shampoo as well as for cooking utensils.
"The claim is that it will cut grease, even in cold water, so I tried it on my oily hair. It worked and worked well! I washed, rinsed and washed again, using water that was as hot as I could stand. This washing removed all the oil."