Head Lice is a very common problem among school aged children. While lice can be inconvenient for students and their families, there are no health risks associated with lice. If identified at school, a nurse will examine a child's head and contact parents. Students are not sent home early from school or excluded from school for the presence of lice, per the recommendations of the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics. Education and information will be provided for the treatment and prevention of head lice to parent/guardians.
Care is taken to protect the privacy of students with lice, as per the evidence-based practices published by the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health. Notification of the presence of lice in a classroom is discretionary and may not occur following one reported case. Most cases of lice are not transmitted at school and students are not at any health risk from the infestation. When notifications are made, they will be kept neutral, providing general guidance to parents on recognizing the presence of lice and treatment options, absent of any identifying information that could put the student's privacy at risk.
The following is some general information:
- Lice are transmitted primarily by head-to-head contact, they don't fly or jump
- Lice are not usually transmitted in the school setting (e.g. sleepovers, sporting events, etc.) and are often active for about a month prior to discovery
- Symptoms consist chiefly of itching, and nits (eggs) can be seen on the hair shaft, and spotted quickly along: hairline, back of neck, ears, and crown of head
- Nits are grayish-white, oval eggs attached to the hair about ¼” from the scalp, no larger than the head of a pin, and only removed by pulling off full length of hair
If you find head lice on your child or other family members, please notify the school nurse to provide staff the opportunity to take extra care with student contact in the classroom and the spaces and/or items that might be affected (bean bag chairs, rugs, upholstered items, coats/hats, etc.).
Treat head lice with the pesticide shampoo recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. Several treatments may be needed, and it is important to carefully follow all instructions with the product you use. Encourage your student not to share personal care items, hats, coats, etc.
Review the checklist to be sure all lice/nits are removed from any/all environments to avoid reinfestation after treatment. If you have questions, please contact the school nurse.
American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following guidance for treating head lice:
Head lice are often a fact of life for school aged children. While inconvenient, head lice cause no medical harm and can be effectively treated. A revised clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Head Lice,” published in the August print issue of Pediatrics (published online July 26, 2010), clarifies and updates protocols for diagnosis and treatment, and provides guidance for the management of children with head lice in the school setting.
Head lice are not a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene and, in contrast to body lice, are not responsible for the spread of any disease. No healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice, and no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned. Informed school nurses can help with diagnosis and suggestions about treatment. Because head lice are usually transmitted by head to head contact, parents should carefully check a child's head before and after attending a sleepover or camp where children share sleeping quarters.
There are many ways to treat active infestations, but not all products and techniques have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. One percent permethrin lotion is recommended as initial treatment for most head lice infestations with a second application 7 - 10 days after the first. 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. Your pediatrician can help with diagnosis, treatment choices and management of difficult cases.
Evidence-based practices recommended by CDC
Position paper from American Academy of Pediatrics
(School control measures and key points are toward the end of the article.)
Position paper from National Association of School Nurses