Use Tea Tree Oil to Foil Head Lice

Itchy Scalp from Head Lice
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Head lice are hard enough on any kid. But when your child has special needs, things get so much more complicated. Pesticide shampoos may be off limits due to your child's health problems. Nit-picking may be complicated by sensory issues or skin sensitivity. And days missing from the school routine can cause behavioral meltdowns and therapy setbacks.

One potential rescuer in all this is tea tree oil, a natural solution that drives lice away if you've got 'em, and keeps 'em away if you don't.

Combined with smothering treatments, it's the remedy that finally saved us when my daughter had The Lice That Wouldn't Die -- and it kept the buggies from jumping to her brother, much to my gratitude.

According to Cathy Wong, ND, our expert on Alternative Medicine:

"Tea tree oil is an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia. Historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name. The part used medicinally is the oil from the leaves." (From "The Benefits of Tea Tree Oil")

You may be able to find tea tree oil shampoo, or small bottles of the oil to drop into your child's shampoo, at stores that sell health-foods and natural medicines, or online on sites like or The brand I used with my daughter is Desert Essence, which offers tea tree oil in both shampoo and oil.

Keep in mind that although tea tree oil is natural, that doesn't automatically make it safe Side effects may include skin rashes in those prone to allergies, and it can be toxic if ingested. You'll want to keep it out of your children's reach, use it in reasonable quantities, consult your pediatrician with any concerns, and use your judgment as to whether it will be a good choice for your child.

However, if your child's particular special needs make some of the pesticide shampoos a dangerous choice, tea tree oil may be a better option, and one that can help the whole family.

For more on tea tree oil and other purposes you may want to put it to, visit our Alternative Medicine site.