Some schools are letting kids with live lice in their hair back in the classroom, a less restrictive policy that has parents scratching their heads.
“Lice is icky, but it’s not dangerous,” says Deborah Pontius, the school nurse for the Pershing County School District in Lovelock, Nev.
Schools in Tennessee, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Carolina also are adopting the more lenient lice policy.
Here’s the revised CDC recommend:
Students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice.
Head lice can be a nuisance but they have not been shown to spread disease. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice.
Both the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses advocate that “no-nit” policies should be discontinued. “No-nit” policies that require a child to be free of nits before they can return to schools should be discontinued for the following reasons:
• Many nits are more than ¼ inch from the scalp. Such nits are usually not viable and very unlikely to hatch to become crawling lice, or may in fact be empty shells, also known as casings.
• Nits are cemented to hair shafts and are very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people.
• The burden of unnecessary absenteeism to the students, families and communities far outweighs the risks associated with head lice.
• Misdiagnosis of nits is very common during nit checks conducted by nonmedical personnel.
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in 2010 to adopt a “do not exclude” infested students recommendation for schools dealing with head lice. It has long encouraged schools to discontinue “no-nit” policies. The itty-bitty nits — which can often be confused with dandruff — cement themselves to the hair shaft, making removal difficult.
I have a friend with four girls who would go absolutely berserk with head lice; combings, hair cuts, pesticides, all the stuffed animals in plastic bags, some cure having to do with giant tubs of off-brand Vaseline she was trying for a while there. I was always surprised her kids kept coming home with lice because they were all swimmers: it seemed like I every time I saw them they had wet hair and smelled of chlorine.