Lice Should Not Be Scary

March 10th, 2014  |  The Blog

Lice. The word scares every parent, teacher and school nurse. In the big picture, what does it really mean?

Parents feel a true sense of embarrassment when they get that call or note from the school nurse stating that their child or some other child in the class has lice.

The tiny glossy lice eggs embed in the hair along the scalp surface. Most schools have a no-nit policy. Let the lice removal or picking begin.

One-third of cases with nits, when left untreated, continue on to have an issue with lice.

The Current Treatment

Most lice-treating products involve an initial shampoo treatment followed by a second medicated shampoo one week later.

The New Recommendations

Head lice pose no health threat to the individual, according to public health experts. The new thought is that a no-nit policy is unnecessary.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has voiced concern about young students unnecessarily missing a week or more of school under the current no-nit policies. The AAP has worked at getting schools to adopt the new, more liberal policy for over ten years.

The AAP makes their point about getting rid of the current school lice policies by stating that checking for lice on every child is futile. Schools do not routinely check for strep throat or chicken pox, both of which are more dangerous than lice.

The Solution

Some school systems have taken the new recommendation and discontinued the no-nit policies. How are lice findings handled?

  1. Infected students are sent home at the end of the school day with an informational note from the school nurse. This information includes two main components: The child is allowed to attend school. Children with adult lice should receive the standard shampoo treatment before returning to school.
  2. Some schools do not send students home midday but do not allow them to return to school until they are nit-free. The theory behind this is the fact that students might have been infected for weeks before the lice are discovered. The school nurse re-checks the student before they are allowed to re-enter classes.
  3. Some schools require that an empty bottle of lice shampoo be returned to the school nurse when they come back to classes.

Lice Resistance

Recent statistics show that about 60% of childhood head lice are resistant to over-the-counter chemical treatments, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lice do respond to the newer treatments available, many of which are prescription strength. Malathion or Ovide is one such lice treatment. Unfortunately, many health insurance companies do not cover these treatments and they are costly, about $100 for a usual course of treatment.

Some health insurance companies require a child to undergo the readily available over-the-counter treatment before they will cover a prescription strength treatment. If lice survive the OTC treatment, some insurance companies will then pay for the prescription.

The Bottom Line

The earlier the treatment for lice begins, the more effective and the easier the situation is to control. Vigilance is a key factor. Parents should screen their children regularly, about weekly, for lice. Young children can be readily checked during bath time or when their hair is being combed or braided for school.

 

 

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