School head lice policies require a new look at old standards

Thursday, July 11, 2013 by: Katie BrindAmour
Tags: head lice, no-nit policy, public schools

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(NaturalNews) Sending kids home from school until they are lice and nit-free has long been a policy of public and private schools in the U.S. and Canada. With recent outcries about the disproportionate penalty for kids with an infestation that is both treatable and not involved in the spread of disease, some schools are revising their policies.

Sending children home from school can be a burden on both kids and parents; children must face social stigma and isolation, while parents must arrange childcare. Despite the belief that head lice infestation occurs only in individuals with poor hygiene, lice can affect anyone. It is most common in children because they are more likely to have head to head contact with schoolmates and friends.

School administrators with no-nit policies argue that infestations can spread quickly through schools, causing distractions, expense, and inconvenience for kids and their families. By sending a child home under a no-nit policy, administrators can avoid having larger outbreaks of lice affect their students - and avoid the nasty calls from parents whose kids picked up lice from classmates.

Re-examining no-nit policies

Over the past year, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has been encouraging schools to revise no-nit policies. CPS claims that no-nit policies are outdated and based on reactionary tendencies rather than scientific information.

Lice cause itching in only about half of all cases; people may be infested without noticing. In some cases, lice could even be mistaken for dandruff. Lice and dandruff have similar symptoms and appearances. Lice could be misdiagnosed without a close inspection, and CPS reports misdiagnosis is not uncommon.

This can lead to missed school days, social stigma, and treatment with aggressive insecticides for no reason in some children, while other kids may go undiagnosed for months for lack of scratching. To avoid these issues, and because head lice don't spread disease, CPS is encouraging schools to relax no-nit policies. This is especially the case now that research has demonstrated that the presence of nits does not cause infestations in all cases, as nits must hatch very close to the scalp to thrive.

Taking CPS's suggestions to heart and citing research that demonstrates that no-nit policies do not reduce outbreaks, the California Department of Public Health now recommends no-lice policies for school districts. No-lice policies would simply recommend children stay at home to receive treatment if live lice are found in the hair.

Whether or not this slight modification in anti-lice policy will be effective at reducing outbreaks and stigma remains to be seen. CPS recommends more dramatic changes in no-nit policies, simply suggesting swift treatment of the condition and the discouragement of head to head contact at school until the outbreak resolves.

Taking care of head lice the simple, natural way

Families who do have a child sent home from school for head lice may wish to avoid over-the-counter lice medications that often contain toxic ingredients. Common insecticides are also becoming increasingly ineffective at eradicating lice and nits. Instead, home remedies for lice may be preferable for the swift, all-natural treatment of lice and nits.

Common natural anti-lice and anti-nit treatments involve smothering the lice and physically removing the nits. Natural oils, such as olive oil, may be rubbed into the hair and scalp and left overnight. Other natural remedies suggest diluting substances such as tea tree oil with other natural oils and leaving it in the hair overnight as well.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
Katie BrindAmour is a Certified Health Education Specialist and passionate health and wellness freelance writer. She enjoys cooking, yoga, gardening, searching for the perfect wine and chocolate combination, and spending time with friends. She has a Masters in Biology and is currently pursuing her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy. She also enjoys blogging for Women's Healthcare Topics and Healthline Networks.

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