Head lice are a continuing problem for parents of school children. Many districts still send children home from school if they have lice or nits in their hair. Many of the pesticides used to kill lice, will only kill the adults and larvae. They do not kill the nits (the egg stage). For this reason, lice control can require at least 2 treatments, the first to kill the living adults and larvae and a follow up treatment to kill larvae that hatch from the nits that remain. The US Center for Disease Control has taken a position against the “No Nit” policy. According to the CDC,
Students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun.
The burden of unnecessary absenteeism to the students, families and communities far outweighs the risks associated with head lice.
Misdiagnosis of nits is very common during nit checks conducted by nonmedical personnel.
However, attempts by some school districts to follow CDC science-based recommendations have been met with emotional opposition. Our local school board recently spent a half an hour discussing the new policy with concerned parents. The school nurse reports that parents have many misconceptions about lice, including “the false notions that lice can jump, pass communicable diseases or are attracted to hair that is unclean.”
The no nit policy may become outdated with the use of pesticides such as spinosad that kills the nits as well as the adults and larvae. Such treatments may be less complicated because they are “one and done” without requiring a properly timed follow up. However, dead nits may be left in place. The dead nits would not be a risk for transmission, but they could keep a child out of the classroom.
Finally, for helicopter parents who want to take preventative measures against lice, “There’s an app for that” called, “The Facts of Lice”. Installed on your iPhone, you can receive and send alerts about head lice outbreaks in your zip code. This app is one of the growing list of “free” apps that provides some useful information and doubles as advertisement for products sold by the business. As with all information from advertisers, caveat emptor.