Head Lice Information
Review of the school policy regarding head lice:
1) Students with live lice (bugs) can stay in school until the end of the school day.
When nits or live lice are found, the school contacts the parents that day and informs them of our findings. Parents may pick their student up from school to treat them, however if the parent is at work or unavailable to pick up their child, they do not need to pick them up early.
2) The Shorewood School District does not do whole class or whole school lice checks.
This policy change is based on best practices involving lice detection, transmission and treatment.
The shift in policy is something that has been occurring across the United States over the past few years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in all of its published journals & articles state that head lice move by crawling, they can not hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person, therefore anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. Spread by contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon. The CDC also states that nits are "very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people" — which has led to many schools across the nation dropping their no-nit policies.
Another intention of the policy change is to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment and protect their privacy. FERPA requires that medical and educational records cannot, without parental/guardian consent, be released to others without a legitimate educational interest. Even without disclosing the actual name of the student, if another person can easily determine the identity of a child, then student privacy and confidentially has been violated.
Our policy is based on current research around best practices along with ensuring the social/emotional well-being of our students.
When To Check:
Checking your student’s head for lice 2-3 times per week should be routine. Based on best practices and FERPA guidelines, letters are not routinely sent home to families for lice detected in school. Parents/guardians should be checking their student’s head for head lice and notifying the school, close friends, and family when it is found. Whole classroom or school-wide lice checks are not productive, cost-effective, nor merited. They also pull students and staff from valuable classroom time. Classroom and school-wide screenings have not been proven to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in a school. (https://www.pediatricnursing.net/ce/2016/article4005226235.pdf)
Parents/Guardians have the ultimate responsibility for their children, which includes assisting in the prevention and management of head lice cases through regular checks of their children’s hair and starting immediate treatment when head lice are detected.
Checking For Head Lice:
Section your student's hair and start at the nape of the neck. Using a well lit area and fine tooth comb, inspect small sections of the students hair from the scalp to approximately 1-2 inches down the hair shaft. Continue moving up the student’s head in small sections, ensuring to thoroughly check behind the ears as well. You are looking for crawling live lice (nymph or adult) or the eggs, also called nits. Often, dandruff is mistaken for nits. Nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft and do not flake off. Nits typically need to be removed using a fine tooth comb or pinching it with your fingers, and sliding the nit off the end of the hair shaft.
When To Treat:
If you find live lice and/or nits, you do not need to treat the student immediately. Start by getting their hair wet and massage in a small amount of conditioner. Then, sectioning the student’s hair, use a nit or louse comb to remove the bugs and nits. Keep a garbage can and paper towel close to wipe the comb and discard the nits/bugs. Nit combs can be borrowed from your school’s health office (limited supply and it must be returned the next day) or you can purchase a comb at your local pharmacy. If after 2-3 days of combing you are still finding live bugs, treat your child with an over-the-counter pediculicide shampoo. Keep wet combing daily until nits and live lice are no longer found.
A second treatment may be necessary about 10 days after the first treatment if you are still finding live lice. Read the directions on the FDA-registered over-the-counter pediculicide shampoo of your choosing to determine if and when a second treatment should be used.Two treatments of the over-the-counter shampoos should be attempted prior to seeing your child’s physician for prescription strength shampoo treatments. Only a few of the prescription strength treatments kill nits or inhibit them from hatching. Wet combing is necessary to remove nits after prescription treatment as well.
Some families have asked about “super lice.” Super lice was brought about because of louse seeming to be resistant to over-the-counter treatments. However, most cases of treatment-resistant head lice are due to the misuse of the treatment and/or assuming the infestation is no longer an issues after treatment only to find a few weeks later that some nits (eggs) were still in their child's hair, have hatched and re-infested the student. This leads parents/guardians to believe they are super lice and aren't killed with OTC treatment.
When determining treatment for head lice, you want to check the child’s head thoroughly. Nits (eggs) are firmly attached to the hair shaft and are oval-shaped. They are very small and may be hard to see. Nits often appear yellow or white and are often confused with dandruff, scabs, or hair spray droplets. If the white/yellow colored specs easily flake off, it is not a nit. More information about nits and live louse checking can be found here.
When live lice are found, you will only need to vacuum and launder items that have had direct contact with the child’s head within the past 24-48 hours. (ex: pajamas/school clothes, pillow cases, car seats, carpet, and furniture) Live lice can only live 1-2 days off the head. The do not jump or fly; they only crawl. Live lice on a child’s head often do not crawl to another surface as they would be leaving their food source. There is no need to vacuum every inch of the house or launder every article of clothing.
Myths and Realities about Head Lice
Lice: More than one louse.
Nit: Eggs, dead or alive, of a louse
Louse: Small insect that lives on the scalp.
Parasite: Lives off another, in this case the blood of humans.
Pediculosis: Having an infestation of lice.
Infestation: Having an insect present, in this case, in your head.
Myth: Head lice are easy to get.
Truth: Lice are spread only mainly by head-to-head contact. They are much harder to get than a cold, flu, ear infection, pink eye, strep throat, food poisoning, or impetigo.
Myth: You can get lice from your dog, guinea pig, or other animal.
Truth: Lice are species-specific. You can only get human lice from another human. You cannot get another animal’s lice.
Myth: You can get head lice from hats and helmets.
Truth: Rarely, but possible. Hairbrushes, pillows, and sheets are also uncommon modes of transmission.
Myth: School is a common place for lice transmission.
Truth: School is an unlikely source of transmission. Much more common are family members, overnight guests, and playmates who spent a large amount of time together.
Myth: Poor hygiene contributes to lice.
Truth: Hygiene makes absolutely no difference. You get lice by close personal head-to-head contact with someone else that has lice, not by being dirty.
Myth: Lice can jump or fly from one person to another.
Truth: Lice can only crawl. They can neither fly nor jump. They must crawl from one person to another.
Myth: Any nits left in the hair can cause lice to come back.
Truth: Any nits farther away than one quarter to one half on the hair shaft are ALREADY HATCHED and pose no risk to others.
Myth: Eggs or nits can fall out of the hair, hatch, and cause lice in another person.
Truth: Nits are cemented to the hair and very hard to remove. They cannot fall off. Newly hatched lice must find a head quickly or will die.
Myth: Lice can live a long time.
Truth: Lice live only 1 to 2 days off the head. Each louse only lives about 30 days on the head. All members of a family should be treated if one person has lice. Only the person with lice should be treated. Lice shampoos are INSECTICIDES and can be dangerous if used incorrectly or too frequently. Household members and close contacts should be checked, but only treat those who actually have lice. The house should NOT be sprayed with insecticide, nor used on clothing or other items.
Myth: Checking a classroom when one student has lice can prevent lice from spreading.
Truth: Classroom transmission is EXCEEDINGLY RARE and checking students is a waste of valuable teaching time. Checking family members and close playmates is much more appropriate.
Myth: Avoiding lice is important as they spread disease.
Truth: Head lice do not spread any known disease. They are annoying and irritating, but not dangerous.
Here is the link to an article that reviews those myths about lice and the best practice recommendations.
Please feel free to contact the district nurse, the North Shore Health Department or your child’s physician with any additional questions about checking for and treating head lice.