Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Head Lice Guidlines for Schools

I, and many other entomologists, have argued for a long time that a diagnosis of head lice is no reason to keep kids out of school, or to otherwise stigmatize them. It now seems that the American Academy of Pediatrics finally agrees. The new AAP guidelines are aimed mostly at schools and are released into an environment in which many schools still suspend students that show any signs of head lice, including simple head-scratching and the presence of real, or even imaginary, nits (lice eggs).

In a recent article the AAP now recommends that:
  • no-nit policies (1) should be abandoned
  • head lice not be treated as a serious medical issue but instead a simple nuisance
  • head lice not be considered an indication of unsanitary conditions
  • head lice should be diagnosed by a pediatrician, not by nit-screening at school
  • excessive cleaning at home is not needed
Most head lice infestations can be managed at home with over-the-counter medications and lice combing. There is no reason to exclude kids from school following a diagnosis of head lice. I understand that is can be a very contentious issue with parents but school administrators now have a new tool in the AAP Guidelines to backup a decision to backoff draconian measures in the face of what is a relatively minor nuisance pest.

 (1) Schools prevent students from entering the building if they exhibit signs of a head lice infestation. The sign most often used is the presence of nits, or eggs, in hair. If nits are found, or even just suspected, all students may be subjected to inspection. Students that are believed to have nits may be excluded from class and sent home for treatment.