In the United States, there are an estimated 6-12 million cases of head lice every year. Children are the primary hosts of these tiny parasitic creatures, meaning a lice outbreak typically causes a stir around schools, daycares, summer camps, and in the minds of anxious parents. But let’s get real for a second. Lice are harmless, pesky-at-most creatures that cannot spread diseases, cannot jump or fly, and can only be spread through direct head-to-head contact. Yet, schools put into place antiquated ‘no-nit’ policies, allowing a truly harmless infestation to interfere with the academic success of students. Here at Hair Whisperers - the experts of lice removal in Mar Vista - we want to set the record straight for schools, breaking down the proper protocol for discovering a lice outbreak in your school: no missed school days or panicked parents necessary.
When it comes to no-nit policies in schools, the practice is outdated and based on fear rather than fact. Head lice cannot jump, fly, or spread to another student without direct head-to-head contact. It is nearly impossible to get lice through the sharing of hats or on soft surfaces, and any lice that do find their way off the host scalp cannot survive for more than 24 hours. Most importantly, lice have no preference over a clean head or a dirty head, meaning poor hygiene is never a reason a person has lice. If these facts are news to you, believe us when we say you are not alone -- and knowledge of this information is power!
For these reasons, it’s nearly impossible for students to get lice at school. According to this article from the Washington Post, only about 10% of cases of lice in the US are sustained through school. More commonly, children get lice from sleepovers, camps, and during sports that involve direct head-to-head contact. Due to the nature of how children play and interact - frequently touching, hugging, wrestling, and the like - there are not many ways parents can prevent lice. For some kids, head lice are simply part of life.
Because of the minimal likelihood that lice are spread at school, but the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses advocate against no-nit policies. Some even suggest the students are not sent home from school at all.
This suggestion is based on two primary arguments. The first argument brings to question whether a case of lice is grounds for interfering with a child’s right to education. Lice are not harmful, but can cause stress among parents if their child gets lice. This suggestion asks, ‘Is a stressful yet harmless situation worth robbing a child of their right to attend school for days to weeks on end, depending on the timeframe in which it takes for their lice to disappear?”
Another argument claims that no-nit policies disproportionately affect low-income families. Not only can lice treatment in and of itself be expensive, but the burden that having to stay home with a child banned from school over head lice or hiring childcare is much greater on a family living paycheck to paycheck than a middle-class family. This discrepancy in a family’s ability to treat lice reinforces the stigma against lice, leading higher-income families to believe that an inability to treat lice is due to being poor or dirty, when in reality the financial setback can be a driving point.
In summary, many schools are discussing their no-nit policy as they assess the rights of a child who has head lice. It’s our suggestion that students with head lice seek treatment as soon as possible, and the school then performs a reasonable amount of due diligence to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
When deciding how to notify parents in the school, take a moment to think about what you would want to be done if it was your child with the lice infestation. Because we know that a stigma exists around head lice, we want to avoid having the child with lice being embarrassed or bullied by their classmates. To create a careful and confidential letter home to families in the event of a lice outbreak, include the following:
Schools should be sure to refer parents to the more effective and thorough lice removal practice possible. Tell parents to contact the Hair Whisperers - the experts of lice removal in Mar Vista and the Los Angeles area - to receive fast and thorough lice removal in the comfort of their own home. You can get in touch with the Hair Whisperers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing you to get rid of lice as soon as possible.