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Should Kids With Lice Be Allowed to Go to School?

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Lice is the dread of many parents. It's a real nuisance and it creeps lots of people out. But it does NOT cause disease. It is for this reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that after proper treatment with an over-the-counter shampoo, children who had lice should be able to return to school.
Girl itching head
Here are some interesting facts about lice:

  • The first time a child is infested with lice, it can take up to six weeks before the itching begins. This means that often, a child has been in the classroom for over a month with lice before having symptoms!

  • The itching doesn't come from the crawling critters, but rather from the saliva that the louse releases into the scalp while feeding on it. (Eww!)

  • Lice don't fly and they don't jump -- they can only crawl. As a result, lice is transmitted from one individual to another through close contact of the head.
What should you do if your child has lice? Don't panic -- it doesn't mean your child is dirty or has poor hygiene. It just means your child's head came into contact with another head that had lice.

  1. Buy an over-the-counter shampoo -- 1 percent Permethrin is the first line of treatment. Follow the package instructions closely.

  2. Do a comb-out with a metal comb, paying close attention to the nits within one centimeter of the scalp (these are the ones that are most likely to survive when they hatch). Many experts say that it's preferable to do the comb-out on wet hair, because it slows down the movement of the lice, making them less likely to escape the comb.

  3. Repeat the shampoo and comb-out in nine days to kill and remove any hatched nits that were missed during the first application.

  4. Herculean housecleaning efforts are unnecessary. Clean bedding, brushes and items in direct contact with the affected head in the last 48 hours. A temperature of 130 degrees F will kill the lice and nits. Vacuum any fabric areas like couches and car seats. Stuffed animals can be bagged for two weeks to ensure they are lice-free.

  5. Treat anyone who shared a bed with the affected individual, even if they are symptom-free. Other family members should only be treated if they have lice.

  6. If after treatment your child still has lice, speak to your pediatrician about other options.

  7. There are many parents who are hesitant about using lice shampoos on their children. If this is the case with you, a proper comb-out every other day for two weeks should do the trick. It's labor-intensive, but can be effective!
Let's put the "creepies" aside and keep healthy children where they belong: in school.

29 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mo August 2, 2010, 12:58 PM

Where do these lice come from? Growing up I didn’t know 1 child who had them. AS an adult I had co-workers talk about their children having them. Are they spread by birds or some other animal? I know crabs are pubic lice and they are carried by dirty sexually active persons… are people giving children sexually transmitted bugs/parasites?

Anonymous August 2, 2010, 1:21 PM

Pubic lice and head lice are different species. There were lots of kids (myself included) who had lice when I was a kid. I think this was due to the fact that the walls were carpeted to about 4 ft in the elementry school. I have never met anyone (that I know of) with pubic lice btw.

Mo August 2, 2010, 1:28 PM

Oops, coming from…..I haven’t met anyone who ADMITTING To having pubic lice. Just health classes.

Truly August 2, 2010, 4:03 PM

We finally got rid of lice in our house! My 4 y/o brought it home from pre school. It took a few weeks! I wondered the same thing- how has lice survived for so long? I’m 35 and had it once in the 4 th grade.

Anonymous August 2, 2010, 4:06 PM

As a teacher I’ve met a handful of parents who did not treat their family lice infestation because they simply couldn’t afford it. They only sought treatment because of the fact that the school insisted on keeping their kids home. I understand the delimma but get ready for some serious infestations in poverty stricken schools.

Jan Verhoeff August 3, 2010, 7:32 AM

Head lice is infectious and can be a real problem if not treated. I know some parents don’t bother to treat their children, and those children invest entire neighborhoods, including their parents. It’s a disgusting problem.

Lice may not carry disease but how can children study in school if there are bugs crawling in their hair and eating their scalp, causing them to scratch their head all the time? Make the problem a PROBLEM for the parents by sending children home and the problem will stop. Low income is no excuse for leaving your children with head lice indefinitely and infecting the whole neighborhood by sending them to school.

Fed Up Mom August 3, 2010, 10:31 AM

Exactly!! I also spent a few weeks getting rid of the lice from BOTH of my children. My oldest brought them home from his kinder class and my youngest got them as well before I realized what the problem was. I asked that the whole class be checked by the nurse and, sure enough, there were two other children with lice. I was frustrated to be informed that classmates are allowed to remain in the class until the end of the day in order to prevent unecessary absences!! I agree, they should be sent home IMMEDIATELY to prevent the spread, the health of the other children is more important. Let the parents deal with this disgusting problem without involving the rest of us!
Is there a way to have this issue e-mailed to all the members in order to get LAUSD to change their policy to how it used to be a few years ago - kids were sent home upon discovery, NOT at the end of the day.

Jacqueline Whittig August 6, 2010, 11:31 PM

At my grand-daughter’s school, the minute they see nits, they send the kids home. Now, here we go again, washing the pillows, bedspreads, and you are suppose to wash them in hot water. Now has that all changed? I am not going to take a chance of getting them, and I know how uncomfortable it has to be to scratch your head all the time. And what about hanging your coats with everyone else’s coats? I think it is a nightmare. I saw this one little girl, and I saw her just digging in her hair, and I asked her if I could look at her head. Her head, I kid you not, looked like pieces of chocolate bar in places where they were all together. Now to me, the parents are not doing their job at home. It shouldn’t be that bad if you get a hand on it soon enough.

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