Be Nice, Don’t Give Me Head Lice

Mention the word head lice and you will hear the parents in the room groan. Talk a little longer and someone is bound to start scratching their head. I seem to have that effect on people. The feeling that overcomes an individual who has had experienced head lice is usually one of stress and frustration. Battling these blood-sucking insects can be laborious, time-consuming and at times, a never-ending nightmare. Summer has come to an end and a new school year has begun. Bring on the teachers, pencils, friendships, books and…head lice?

Female head louse

Female human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis. (Photo: Gilles San Martin)

Why do the incidences of head lice correlate with the return to school?

Believe it or not, head lice are rarely transmitted in schools. Although cases spike after extended periods away from school such as summer vacation, they are most often transmitted among close friends, cousins, siblings and other relatives during events such as sleepovers, camps, and extended visits. The discovery occurs when children return to school, but seldom does it get spread on school property*.

*Transmission activities that may occur that can be the source of transmission in childcare, preschool and elementary school.

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Head Lice No-Nit Policies

The last couple weeks, I have given several head lice presentations to childcare provider groups.  Two important organizations (American Academy of Pediatrics; National Association of School Nurses) are discouraging the use of no-nit policies to send students home, instead of keeping them in school where they can learn and keep up with their classmates.  This makes sense because nits (eggs) are hard to identify with certainty, nits can’t transfer from one child to another and lice don’t transmit diseases.  For more information, check out: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/lice/headlice018.shtml

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