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More lenient school lice policies bug some parents

By Jennifer C. Kerr

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:08 a.m. HST, Nov 08, 2013


WASHINGTON >> Some parents are scratching their heads over less restrictive head lice policies that allow children with live bugs in their hair to return to the classroom.

And some school nurses are no longer sending home the dreaded "lice note" to other parents with kids in the classroom, alerting them to the possibility of lice in their own child's precious locks. The policy shift is designed to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment and protect their privacy.

"Lice is icky, but it's not dangerous," says Deborah Pontius, the school nurse for the Pershing County School District in Lovelock, Nev. "It's not infectious, and it's fairly easy to treat."

Usually by the time an itchy child is sent to the nurse, Pontius says, the child has probably had lice for about three weeks to two months. She says classmates already would have been exposed. There's little additional risk of transmission, she says, if the student returns to class for a few hours until the end of the day, when a parent would pick up the child and treat for lice at home.

Pontius also doesn't send lice notes. "It gets out who had lice," she says, and there's no need to panic parents. Parents with elementary school-aged kids should check their children's hair for lice once a week anyway, she says. If they are doing that, then there's really no need for the notes.

The idea of letting kids with untreated lice remain in class doesn't set well with some parents.

"I'm appalled. I am just so disgusted," says Theresa Rice, whose 8-year-old daughter, Jenna, has come home from her elementary school in Hamilton County, Tenn., with lice three times since school started in August.

"It's just a terrible headache to have to deal with lice," says Rice. To pick out the tiny eggs, or nits, and lice from Jenna's long blond hair is a four-hour process. Add to that all the laundry and cleaning — it's exhausting, she says. Rice had to bag up her daughter's treasured stuffed animals, which remained sealed for weeks even after Jenna was lice-free.

Jenna's school implemented a new policy in the past year that allows children with untreated lice to go home at the end of the day, be treated and then return to school. The policy, the district said, complies with the guidelines of both the Tennessee Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other schools, in California, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina and elsewhere, have similar policies.

The National Pediculosis Association in Massachusetts is opposed to relaxing bans on lice and blames the updated policies for spreading the bugs.

"The new lice policy throws parental values for wellness and children's health under the bus," says Deborah Altschuler, head of the Newton-based group. "It fosters complacency about head lice by minimizing its importance as a communicable parasitic disease."

The association says lice treatment shampoos are pesticides that are not safe for children and not 100 percent effective. The group instead urges parents to screen regularly and use a special comb to manually remove lice and nits from a child's hair.

Lice are tiny grayish-white bugs that infest a scalp, sucking bits of blood every few hours. Lice don't jump or fly. They crawl. They are not a sign of poor hygiene.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years old. While itchy and unpleasant, health experts say lice don't spread disease and are not a health hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in 2010 to adopt a "do not exclude" infested students recommendation for schools dealing with head lice.

The National Association of School Nurses revised its position the following year. In its guidance, the association said children found with live head lice should remain in class but be discouraged from close direct head contact with others. The school nurse should contact the parent to discuss treatment.

The association doesn't have figures on how many schools have adopted less restrictive policies. It varies by state and often by school district.

The ways in which schools manage head lice have been changing over the last couple of decades.

It used to be that schools wouldn't allow children to return to the classroom until all the lice and the nits were removed. The academy has long encouraged schools to discontinue "no-nit" policies. The itty-bitty nits — which can often be confused with dandruff — cement themselves to the hair shaft, making removal difficult.

The CDC says the nits are "very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people" — and many schools have dropped their no-nit policies. But supporters of no-nit rules, such as the National Pediculosis Association, say the eggs will hatch new lice and need to be removed from a child's hair to be considered lice free.

———

Online

Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/index.html

National Pediculosis Association: http://www.headlice.org/

National Association of School Nurses: http://bit.ly/y8IUdg







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KailuaMom wrote:
I agree with Theresa Rice. Dealing with ukus (head lice) is a pain. With the "no nits" policies in place, my children had ukus once in all of their school years--not three times in three months as Theresa's daughter has! We should keep the "no nits" policies in place while educating everyone that poor hygiene is not the culprit (which can alleviate some of the embarrassment.) As far as privacy goes, it is no longer private when it is spread to others and becomes an ongoing headache for the schools to monitor and "control".
on November 8,2013 | 03:47AM
LMO wrote:
Yes, parenting can, at times be exhausting, but that's when you chose when you decided to have unprotected sex. Don't look to the schools to do your parenting for you.
on November 8,2013 | 04:13AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
UKUS! Ewww! I can remember when they treated the infected kids with a kerosene shampoo!
on November 8,2013 | 05:14AM
8082062424 wrote:
Are you serious? kerosene?
on November 8,2013 | 06:05AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
808, serious. kerosene shampoo. Some shaved the kids' head, even the girls! I remember my friend's girl neighbors had their heads shaved in elementary school.
on November 8,2013 | 06:39AM
8082062424 wrote:
Wow. and i though it was so bad having a vinegar and water mixture on our heads to help remove the eggs . we had it easy
on November 8,2013 | 07:04AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
808, ask your grandparents. They remember.
on November 8,2013 | 04:13PM
8082062424 wrote:
It also the school job to protected all kids not just one. when you keep getting infected again it show your programs or idea not working. how are going to send a kid who has ukus back to class. that just filithy
on November 8,2013 | 05:16AM
cojef wrote:
Learned a new Hawaiian word today, "uku". In 1931, we had only 1 child sent home with lice in my 1st Grade class. After that never had any more as I recall.
on November 8,2013 | 07:41AM
8082062424 wrote:
that is impressive
on November 8,2013 | 08:33AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Only a dumb NITwit would come up with the no-notice policy.
on November 8,2013 | 07:46AM
SteveToo wrote:
Gotta be Politically Correct. Can't embarrass anyone not a days. Stu-pid liberals.
on November 8,2013 | 08:33AM
Mahalo wrote:
My girlfriend just called me from Colorado where her husbands job uprooted them from Hawaii to. She lives in a very affluent neighborhood homes upwords of $500K (Hawaii would be 2 or 3 mil) An outbreak of Lice has occurred and the parents of that school are in total denial that their kids could get lice. They are on the 2 month and they are unable to get it under control. Being from Hawaii, it was no big deal to her she cleaned and treated the WHOLE family.. but when her neighbors and other class mates are not cleaning the problem is not going away. Nothing to be ashamed of, it happened.. just like bed bugs
on November 8,2013 | 08:41AM
juscasting wrote:
They just have to wait for the winter snow. The cold will kill them off.
on November 8,2013 | 11:34AM
ryan02 wrote:
Barry got da ukus!
on November 8,2013 | 11:54AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Maybe his girlfriend is one dog.
on November 8,2013 | 02:47PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Now my scalp feels itchy.
on November 8,2013 | 04:15PM
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