Parents bugged out

More lenient lice policies bug some parents.
Associated Press
Nov 9, 2013

 

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. "It's not infectious, and it's fairly easy to treat."

Previously, most schools have required children with lice to be sent home, in an attempt to prevent the spread to other children. Children haven't been allowed to return to the classroom until all the lice and nits, or lice eggs, are removed.

Also, schools customarily send notes home to let parents know that a child in class had lice so that they could be on the lookout for lice on their own children. Pontius has stopped doing that, as well.

The policy shift is designed to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment and protect their privacy.

Schools in Tennessee, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Carolina also are adopting the more lenient lice policy.

Some questions and answers about head lice and the new policies.

Q: WHAT ARE LICE AND WHO GETS THEM?

A: Lice are tiny grayish-white bugs that infest a scalp, sucking bits of blood every few hours. Lice don't jump or fly. They crawl. They are not a sign of poor hygiene.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years old. While itchy and unpleasant, health experts say lice don't spread disease and are not a health hazard.

Q: IF THEY'RE NOT A HEALTH HAZARD, WHY ARE KIDS SENT HOME?

A: Schools and parents feared that children in close quarters would spread lice to one another.

Q: WHY THE CHANGE IN POLICY?

A: Itchy children probably had lice for three weeks to two months by the time they're sent to the nurse, Pontius says.

Classmates already would have been exposed. There's little additional risk of transmission, she says, if the student returns to class for a few hours until the end of the day, when a parent would pick up the child and treat for lice at home.

Pontius also doesn't send lice notes. "It gets out who had lice," she says, and there's no need to panic parents. Parents with elementary school-aged kids should check their children's hair for lice once a week anyway, she says. If they are doing that, then there's really no need for the notes.

Q: WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

A: 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.

The National Association of School Nurses revised its position the following year. In its guidance, the association said children found with live head lice should remain in class but be discouraged from close direct head contact with others and said the school nurse should contact the parent to discuss treatment.

The association doesn't have figures on how many schools have adopted less restrictive policies. Policies vary by state and often by school district.

Q: HOW DO PARENTS FEEL?

A: Letting kids with untreated lice remain in class doesn't sit well with some parents.

"I'm appalled. I am just so disgusted," says Theresa Rice, whose 8-year-old daughter, Jenna, has come home from her Hamilton County, Tenn., school with lice three times since August.

"It's just a terrible headache to have to deal with lice," says Rice. To pick out the tiny nits and lice from Jenna's long blond hair is a four-hour process. Add to that all the laundry and cleaning — it's exhausting, she says. Rice had to bag up her daughter's treasured stuffed animals, which remained sealed for weeks even after Jenna was lice-free.

Jenna's school implemented a new policy in the past year that allows children with untreated lice to go home at the end of the day, be treated and then return to school. The policy, the district said, complies with the guidelines of both the Tennessee Department of Education and the CDC.

Q: WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

A: The National Pediculosis Association in Massachusetts opposes relaxing bans on lice and says the updated policies spread the bugs. Pediculosis means infestation of lice.

"The new lice policy throws parental values for wellness and children's health under the bus," says Deborah Altschuler, head of the Newton-based group. "It fosters complacency about head lice by minimizing its importance as a communicable parasitic disease."

The association says lice treatment shampoos are pesticides that are not safe for children and not 100 percent effective. The group instead urges parents to screen regularly and use a special comb to manually remove lice and nits from a child's hair.

The CDC says the nits are "very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people" — and many schools have dropped their no-nit policies. But supporters of no-nit rules, such as the National Pediculosis Association, say the eggs will hatch new lice and need to be removed before a child is considered lice-free.

 

Comments

Mommabear713

Ok... Crummy. However, there are preventative measures. Do not assume that only dirty people attract lice. In fact, lice LOVE clean hair.

The more products your child has in their hair, the better. The lice do not like to "chew" through the gunk.

Keep your daughters hair up in a tight ponytail or bun. Keep your sons hair short. Lice look to stay warm.

Remind and teach your kids not to share brushes, combs, hats etc.

There are two types of shampoos that can help prevent the lice. Lice shield, which can be found at nearly every store. And Tea Tree shampoo. (Anything with eucalyptus will also work.) It's something about the eucalyptus they do not like.

Do not blame it on a pet. Dogs and cats cannot get lice.

For this chick to say it isn't infectious is absurd. How is it not infectious if it can be passed from person to person?

And not dangerous??? Ok, look up pictures of people who are infested with lice. They can chew the crap out of your scalp and cause open sores, which in turn can cause INFECTIONS!!! And you can get lice in your eyelashes. Yuck!

Good luck!

deertracker

Good thing lice does not like Black people's hair! Hell, Black people don't like their hair either!

Mommabear713

Well.... now they'll like their hair for one reason. They don't have to worry about getting lice!

And really, come to think of it, all the years I did hair, I don't think I ever encountered a black person with lice. Hmm....

deertracker

Must be an Obama conspiracy thing! LOL!

Mommabear713

LMAO!!!!

Mommy25

She says: "It's not infectious, and it's fairly easy to treat." Is she related to obama???? What an out right lie!!!!

Mommabear713

Bahahahahaha! Love this comment. I really do wish SR would put a thumbs up button.

erieone

Lice is HIGHLY infectious! It is also extremely hard to get rid of. Not only do you have to use the shampoo, but you must remove every egg from the hair. You also have to vacuum all of the carpets and furniture as well as wash all of the laundry and bedding. Many people think that a lice shampoo is all it takes to get rid of it, but the fact is that it takes MUCH more work than that. It sickens me that students are being allowed to attend school with lice and infect other children!

Mommabear713

Let's hope the state of Ohio does not incoorperate these views. I would be ticked.

Informed

Every school district sets its own guidelines regarding lice.

ladydye_5

I add a combination of essential oils to all conditioner I buy. It acts as a preventative. Problem solved. Tea Tree oil helps, as does eucalyptus oil. Olive oil and coconut oil helps to break down the shells of their bodies. There are many more natural ways to treat/prevent them. Anyone that would say they are not infectious is just plain ridiculous! As for the black hair, most women have products in their hair and lice do not like products. LICE LOVE CLEAN HAIR.

Mommabear713

Agreed!

deertracker

What products ladydye? Enlighten us why you think black hair is so dirty. What products do blacks use that make their hair dirty? Stick to what you know please!

Clydegal

I was that student with the long beautiful thick hair and my head is itching from just reading that article!! I would get it every stinkin year! Not contagious I was a grown adult and went to stay with a relative and got it ended up they had it! Do they not realize the cost to get rid of it?? So since they are going to allow students to go to school with it, this means that those to poor to treat it wont treat it!! Leaving those that don't want it to continuously have to treat their hair!! This is so outrageous!!! I am so thankful my kids haven't had it!! I was tortured with it as a child!! I hate those itchy little bugs shall they all die!!!

Mommabear713

Same here. I had it multiple times as a child. And when I was working in the salon and encountered it, I was paranoid about getting it for days afterwards. My daughter has never had it. She stayed with someone who had it, slept in the same bed, shared pillows, blankets etc. And still never got it. But she was in that stage where when she took a bath, she wasn't washing her hair, just wetting it. It was then that I was ok with her not washing her hair every time she took a bath. If it prevents those nasty bugs from coming in my house, I'm ok with that lol.

he said she said

I never had lice. All of the girls in the family had long hair and our mother would not let us wash our hair everyday because it took so long to dry. My children never had it either.

I do have a family member that got it all the time and from what the school said, this was because she was required to put her head down on her desk and the desks weren't cleaned to remove the lice. This family member had to clean all her furniture, the child's matress and wash all the blankets and sheets. A pain but she would be ok until she was required to put her head down on the desk again.

Mommabear713

That does not make any sense. Lice have to have a live host in order to survive. Once they do not, they have roughly 24 hrs or less. So the whole thing on the lice being on the desk and that was causing the reoccuring issue, isn't correct. There had to be another cause of where the lice was coming from.

Lillithree

My children only brought home lice a cpl times when they were little back in the 90's. and I was always able to get rid of them with out vacuuming the whole house and washing everything. Going through all of the panicky, panicky....... And I found that after using the RID shampoo if you coat the child's hair with hair gel for a cpl days the nits wash right out.