With the school year already underway, beware that invasions of head lice could soon follow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations occur annually in our country among children ages three to 11 years.
When an infestation is suspected, a “No Nit Policy” is sometimes enforced, which means infested children can’t return to school until they’re totally free of “nits” or lice eggs. Nits are often difficult to see and even harder to remove, because they’re so firmly attached to hair shafts near the roots.
Children who are subjected to the “No Nit Policy” not only miss out on learning opportunities but often feel “singled out” and humiliated – which opens the door for taunting from classmates.
None of us wants such a scenario for our kids.
It’s important to know that since 1999, the National Association of School Nurses has advised that children with head lice shouldn’t be barred from attending school – but rather they should be “discouraged from close direct head contact with others.”
The organization’s position statement, which was reiterated and revised in 2011, concludes: “The school nurse is in a position to take the lead in eliminating school exclusion policies and, instead, incorporate evidence-based practices that reduce the stigma associated with head lice, and work to increase classroom time with an emphasis on keeping students in school.”
In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a similar statement, also noting that “parents and caregivers should make sure that any treatment chosen is safe; preferred treatments would be those which are easy to use, reasonably priced, and proven to be non-toxic. All products must be used exactly according to manufacturer’s instructions.”
Liz Solovay, co-founder of the Monroe, Connecticut-based Lice Treatment Center®, agrees with both perspectives but also emphasizes that education about prevention and control is also extremely important.
“Parents and teachers need to be proactive in helping their children understand that contracting head lice has nothing to do with anyone’s degree of personal hygiene or social status. Children should also be made aware that if precautions are taken, exposure to head lice can be greatly reduced,” says Solovay, adding that talking to our children about prevention should be a regular before-school-starts ritual.
Solovay encourages parents to share the following lice-prevention tips with their children before or soon after the start of school:
- Avoid making “head-to-head” contact with classmates during sports, playtime or at sleepovers.
- Don’t borrow or share personal items with classmates that contact the head, such as combs, brushes, hats, scarves, sports and bike helmets, hair ties, and scrunchies.
- If one of your classmates is infested, avoid lying on their furniture, pillows or sleeping bags.
- Don’t share cubbies in school, if possible.
- Make sure toddlers don’t share dress-up clothing or stuffed animals during playtime.
The Lice Treatment Center® also makes several pediatrician-formulated products that if used regularly will help repel lice, such as Daily Shampoo and Daily Conditioner. Click here to view all Jolis Cheveux™ by LTC® products.
“Pediculosis Management in the School Setting,” position statement of the National Association of School Nurses, co-authored by Deborah Pontius and Carmen Teskey; adopted 1999, revised 2004 and 2011.
“AAP Offers Updated Guidance on Treating Head Lice,” posted June 26, 2010, on the American Academy of Pediatrics website.