Why Schools Are Moving Away from “No-Nit” Policies
The most commonly asked questions parents ask when confronted with head lice are, 1) why wasn’t I notified that lice were found at my child’s school? And, 2) why aren’t kids with lice sent home from school until they are lice-free?
Here are the answers.
Over the past decade or so, there’s been a major shift in the medical and educational communities about how to deal with head lice. The shift has come with the recognition that head lice do not represent a serious health threat and a case of head lice does not warrant missing valuable school time. Also, while some schools will notify the parents of children that are found with head lice, most schools don’t warn other families because of the panic that often ensues. The policy changes are designed to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment, and protect their privacy.
The recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school. The CDC points out that both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advocate that so-called “no-nit” policies—where students are required to stay home until they are lice-free—should be discontinued.
The CDC lists the following reasons for the change in policy:
- Many nits are more than ¼ inch from the scalp. Such nits are usually not viable and very unlikely to hatch to become crawling lice, or may in fact be empty shells, also known as ‘casings.’
- Nits are cemented to hair shafts and are very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people.
- 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.
According to the AAP, “Most cases of head lice are acquired outside of school.” That’s why “the AAP continues to recommend that a healthy child should not be restricted from attending school because of head lice or nits (eggs). Pediatricians are encouraged to educate schools and communities that no-nit policies are unjust and should be abandoned. Children can finish the school day, be treated, and return to school.”
The reality for most school districts is that the effort involved in keeping schools entirely lice-free would be a futile use of their limited resources. The CDC estimates that there are 6-12 million cases of head lice in children between the ages of 3-11 . This means that at least 1 in 5students have lice at any given time. In the early stages of a case of head lice, many children display no symptoms as nits and adolescent lice don’t bite and don’t cause the itching sensation that indicates the presence of head lice.
Keeping a school lice-free would require constant checks of the entire student body, which is unrealistic and unnecessary for a condition that is not considered a health problem. That’s the conclusion that the CDC, AAP, and NASN have come to, and many school districts are following these recommendations.
Many “no-nit” policies were developed because traditional over the counter lice treatments take several weeks to be effective. The first treatment is designed to kill live lice but doesn’t kill eggs, or nits. Since nits can hatch over ensuing weeks and remain for the subsequent treatments, combing and nit-picking are required with a traditional treatment.
Fortunately, new treatments are available that can kill live lice and nits in a single session. Lice Clinics of America has pioneered a new approach with a first-of-its kind medical device, AirAllé, which has been cleared by the FDA and clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of nits in a single treatment that takes about an hour. AirAllé uses carefully controlled warm air to dehydrate lice and eggs, and in the company’s worldwide 300+ clinics more than 350,000 cases of head lice have been successfully treated.
The Bright Side is a Preferred Provider for the Lice Clinics of America.
For more information or to find a clinic, visit www.liceclinicsofamerica.com.