It's a lousy job but, you can kill lice without resorting to dangerous pesticides

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Q Is there any natural way to avoid lice or get rid of the bugs once they strike?

A Back-to-school time means different things to different people. I, for instance, still get nauseous every September. But anyone in contact with kids might be mentally preparing for the possibility of an itchy infestation.

Once the bugs strike, most people just run to the drugstore for a bottle of any louse-dousing drops or shampoo they can find, but those are full of nasty chemical pesticides.

Three types of topical treatments are common in Canada. One kind contains pyrethrins, derived from chrysanthemum blossoms, which aren’t so bad. Those allergic to ragweed, however, could have a reaction to them.

The second kind, permethrin (1 per cent), is also a bug repellent but isn’t even allowed on bug-repellant clothing f0r campers in Canada. So why are we rubbing this possible carcinogen and suspected hormone disrupter on our heads?

If you think that’s bad, open door number three. Lindane is the third over-the-counter topical option, but this neurotoxin from the same family of chemical pesticides as DDT has actually been banned for agricultural use in over 50 countries! Canada has been slagged for still allowing it on a limited number of crops as well as on people’s scalps. Last month, the U.S. EPA banned lindane except to treat head lice, which has also pissed off children’s advocates and environmentalists.

Health Canada says infants, children under six, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly with a history of seizures (unless their doctors okay it) should not use products containing lindane. Do you get the feeling it’s toxic? The feds even suggest you wash your toilet seat in lindane, but forget that.

To make matters worse, lice attacks are a bit like bad horror movie sequels: they just keep coming back, even when you use the strong stuff. It seems some lice are reported to be resistant to all three products.

Instead of committing youself to chemical bath after chemical bath, douse your house with Ontario-based Lice Squad’s all-natural enzyme-based green house cleaner. It works on fleas and bedbugs as well.

Lots of schools and camps also turn to the Lice Squad for products to use on kids’ heads. The company makes highly touted natural enzyme-based drops and mousses called Nitpickers Secret and Not Nice to Lice.

No matter what, you’ll never totally get rid of lice unless you remove the nits (lice eggs) near the scalp, so you’ll need a good nit comb and a lot of patience.

If that’s too time-intensive for you, the Lice Squad will actually send its staff to pick your whole family’s heads ( To avert spread or recontamination, make sure to wash all your clothing, bedding and towels in hot water.

FYI, some home remedies recommend covering your head in a thick layer of petroleum jelly, olive oil or mayonnaise overnight, but these treatments won’t do much but make you never want to eat mayonnaise again.

Tea tree oil is often prescribed in alt circles, but the astringent can be pretty drying and hard on the skin with prolonged use.

The Canadian Pediatric Society cites an Israeli study that had success killing lice with a product called Hair Clean 1-2-3, a spray containing coconut oil, anise oil and ylang ylang oil (you can pick some up at Whole Foods on Avenue Road, Nutrition House locations and Health Service Centre stores).


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