Can You Suffocate Head Lice?

microscope image of Pediculus humanus capitas, head lice.

By Kelli Ogle

The short answer is yes, but not with water. This is a good first step in the process of eliminating an active case of head lice.

Yes, it is possible to suffocate head lice, because they breathe air through the sides of their body through openings called spiracles. In order to suffocate and kill head lice by suffocation, you have to plug up the spiracles. Now keep in mind that lice can live for several hours without taking a breath, so you would have to keep the method of suffocation on your hair for many hours.

The efficacy of suffocation products depends on the thoroughness of the application, and the time spent on each treatment. Since the spiracles cannot be seen by the naked eye, it is hard to know whether they are getting plugged with the product. Be aware if you do choose a suffocation treatment for head lice, you need something viscous that will plug up the breathing apparatus.LiceDoctors Technician using Terminator Lice Comb on brunette person.

These products will not penetrate the eggshell and lice eggs (nits) do not breathe, so this is ineffective at killing the nits. After you suffocate the live bugs, you need to physically remove all nits. This is imperative or the nits will hatch and your case will start up again. It is very important that you take the time to comb out the nits (lice eggs) with a nit comb.. Be as thorough as you possibly can, because nits that are left behind, and accidentally missed, will hatch within a few days. 

If you find lice, LiceDoctors can send a lice specialist to your home who will make sure that she removes all visible nits. She will leave you with a simple after care plan that ensures that the lice stay away. It can be a big challenge for a novice to find all of the nits because they camouflage with the hair. Call for help today at 757-609-0509 . Treatment is available day and night, 365 days a year.