How sick is this?
With the backing of some major health organizations, a majority of schools across the country are allowing children to stay in class if they have nits -- lice eggs -- but not actual crawling bugs in their hair.
It's a change recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, and it has been welcomed by many educators and parents, who worried that students were missing too much school, that moms and dads were missing work, and children were being made to feel ashamed.
The U.S. has anywhere from 6 million to 12 million cases of head lice each year, though that is only a "guesstimate," said Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a Vermont pediatrician who has studied the subject extensively. It is not clear whether there have been more infestations in recent years as a result of the new, more relaxed policies.
The switch came after a 2002 AAP study that said students with nits shouldn't be kept out of class. The real problem, according to the medical experts, is the lice, not their eggs.
"Nits don't spread. They don't jump from one person to another," said Amy Garcia, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. "So to withhold a child from school due to nits really interrupts the educational process."
Once nits hatch, they generally take 7 to 10 days to become full-grown adults that can lay eggs and begin the cycle all over again.
About 60% of schools now allow children with nits to stay in class, Garcia said.
The AAP also says that kids who are found to have crawling head lice should be allowed to stay in school for the rest of the day, but discouraged from close head contact with others. But not many school districts have gone that far.
Getting rid of head lice often requires a strong anti-lice shampoo to kill the crawling bugs, and a fine-tooth comb to pick the nits out of the hair. But the safety and effectiveness of some shampoos are questionable, and removing all the nits can take days if not months. (One staffer here battled her daughter's lice for over two months.)
Do you think kids with lice eggs in their hair should be allowed in school?