Special Guest post:

“Ew, you have cooties!” is more than just a childish playground taunt; cooties were (and are) a real thing, and a serious problem for much of history.

The term refers to Pediculus humanus corporis, otherwise known as the human body louse. During wartime, body lice were a scourge to soldiers and civilians in crowded conditions, and were a much more dire problem than the other human lice species (head lice and pubic lice, or “crabs”). Cooties carried typhus, a disease that killed over three million people on the former Eastern Front, between 1918 and 1922. De-lousing stations set up on both sides of the conflict kept the cootie from running rampant in Western Europe, but it was still a persistent problem throughout the war. The body louse was most notably found in German concentration camps in WWII, and the typhus carried by Pediculus humanus corporis is what killed both Anne Frank and her sister Margot.

Typhus has plagued humanity for centuries, but cooties have not. The term cootie was first coined by the British army in WWI, and is presumed to be from the Malay word kutu, meaning either biting body louse or dog tick.

Today’s post by Arallyn, a humanoid from the third rock from the sun who is fascinated by science and who runs the fantastic blog when she isn’t filling her mind with scientific trivia.  Check out her cool blog-I don’t know where she finds her material, but it is spectacular!

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Does hair dye kill lice?

Head lice are very irritating insects that you have to deal with quickly and seriously. They are contagious and can be spread easily. These insects can’t fly, they move by crawling and cause severe itching on scalp. They don’t spread diseases, however, it is necessary to deal with them as soon as possible. Lice infestation can be treated with either natural remedies like olive oil, apple vinegar, or with chemical treatments such as pesticides and lice shampoo. It is said that capillary treatments may treat head lice. If so, many persons would be wondering: does hair dye kill lice?

(Credited photo from Flickr )

What are head lice?

Head lice or Pediculus humanus capitis are tiny wingless insects that need a human host to survive. They can be found on the head, eyelashes and eyebrows. Head lice feed on human blood. A single adult is referred to as a louse and lice eggs are called nits. An infestation with head lice is due to close contact with an affected person or by touching their grooming tools.

What causes head lice infestation?

These blood-sucking insects don’t fly, they move by crawling. Therefore, they are spread either through direct contact with the hair of an infested person or by using the personal items of an infested person such as scarves, hats, headphones, brushes, combs, or headbands.

In fact, lice can’t live more than 48 hours off the host. But they do live temporarily on fabric items: towels, pillows, blankets, clothing…

How do I treat head lice?

Head lice can be treated with home remedies or with pesticides. Combing with a fine tooth comb is thought to be the best solution to get rid of these wingless blood sucking insects.

Natural remedies

It is highly recommended to try natural remedies for head lice before using chemical treatments.

Olive oil

Apply olive oil generously on your scalp, cover your hair with a shower cap and leave it overnight. Reapply oil on day 2,5,13,17,19,21. The treatment days coincide with the lice’s cycle of life. The next day use a lice comb to remove all the nits and lice and wash your hair with shampoo, apply conditioner to make combing easier.     The key is in the combing, so choose a metallic lice comb, for it is more effective than the plastic one.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is the most powerful weapon against head lice.

Follow these steps and make sure you avoid direct contact with eyes

  1. Apply vinegar on scalp
  2. Rinse off
  3. Use a delousing comb to comb all nits out

Repeat this process for a week to have better results. Notice that apple cider vinegar would only help you get rid of lice eggs (nits) so you have to use another treatment to kill adult lice such as essential oils (tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, neem oil, aniseed oil…)

Chemical treatments


Lice drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they fall into two camps: prescription drugs and over-the-counter. These chemicals kill head lice by poisoning them

How to use any head lice treatment appropriately:

  • Use a nit comb to remove dead lice and nits after rinsing both the scalp and the hair
  • Use medication exactly as directed by your doctor
  • Read the medication manual carefully
  • Pesticides should be used to treat lice not to prevent lice
  • Wear glove when applying pesticides
  • Make sure you keep pesticides away from your nose, mouth and eyes
  • Don’t use hairdryer after treating lice because heat may prevent the treatment from working
  • Check all family members before treating one
  • Wash bedding and clothing with hot water
  • Don’t use several lice treatments at the same time

Hair dye

We are often asked does hair dye kill lice? Are people with dyed hair immune to head lice? Indeed, hair dye contains chemicals that may be toxic to lice; these chemicals affect the lice’s neurological system thus causing them to die. In fact, hair dye could help you get rid of lice but not of their eggs because nits have an impenetrable shell. Nits have about 7-10 days to hatch on the scalp. So whether you dye your hair or not, these eggs would hatch and the cycle would start again

Note that people with dyed hair are not immune to head lice; they are as likely to get lice infestation as individuals with natural hair color.

Does hair dye work on kids?

Hair dye contains chemical ingredients that can cause allergic reaction. Usually, hair color contains ingredients such as, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol which can be harmful for children’s scalp; hair dye may lead to serious skin problems as well as a difficulty in breathing and swallowing. That’s why it is highly recommended to have a patch test before dying your child’s hair.

I suggest that you treat head lice with remedies you are sure are safe, and get well informed before using any product. It is crucial to be cautious especially when it comes to your kids’ health.


There are several ways to treat head lice. Lice infestation can be treated with both chemical products and natural remedies. In fact, you should collect information about drugs and home remedies for lice because there are many treatments that are thought to kill lice but these actually don’t work. So stop asking questions like does mayonnaise kill lice? Does hair dye kill lice? Stop wasting time and giving these blood-sucking insects the opportunity to hatch, get the advice of an expert: a doctor or a pharmacist, arm yourself with knowledge, patience, pick up an efficient treatment and tackle your newly arrived parasites.