A head lice policy that isn’t a nuisance

A head lice policy that isn’t a nuisance

As I’ve written before (George Bush: Louse Enabler?), schools tend to go overboard on their head lice policies, enforcing strict “no nit” rules that don’t make a lot of sense. So I was happy when I found the following announcement from a local school. It seems like a very sane way to go:

We realize that some parents are quite concerned about head lice, and wanted to provide some useful information to inform you about what we are experiencing and to reassure you about how we manage the problem as an institution. [Note: a recent newsletter article gave parents practical tips on lice management at home.]

Why are there so many cases of lice this year?

We had heard reports that summer camps were over-run with cases of lice this summer, so we anticipated that we might experience more problems than usual at the start of the school year. That is why we reminded parents about checking heads carefully before school began (in the August packet) and why we remind parents to continue to do so every week in the newsletter.

To put things in perspective, we have experienced less than ten cases of lice in the entire school so far this year.

Why don’t we do school-wide head checks like some other schools do?

Experience has taught us that conducting school-wide head checks is not only disruptive to teachers and students and very time-consuming, but also that it rarely yields any cases of lice. At home, parents can do a much more thorough exam of their own children on a regular basis. That is why we ask you to take that responsibility.

Neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the National Association of School Nurses is in favor of group screenings. Both research and anecdotal reports have indicated that the excessive amount of time it takes to conduct group screenings is not productive.

Why does our school have a “modified no-nit policy”?

We modified our policy several years ago to keep in line with the most recent research concerning head lice management, and we follow recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses.

According to Richard J. Pollack, PhD, of Harvard School of Public Health, “No child should lose even an hour of school because of head lice. By the time you find head lice, that child has likely been infested for a month or more.” Therefore, we have chosen to have a different policy than the policies still in place in some other schools and school systems. Our policy reflects good, current clinical practice. We have an excellent, ongoing relationship with the local Department of Public Health, our nursing and medical liaisons there are fully supportive of how we handle head lice.

Here is what our experience has been:

  • In the several years since we modified our policy, we have actually experienced a decrease in the numbers of children who develop head lice after cases are diagnosed and appropriate management begun.
  • Most cases of head lice in our school have been discovered by parents when the child is at home. This year, only one of the cases of head lice was diagnosed by the nurses while the child was in school, and that child’s parents chose to take the child home early.
  • In every instance where the nurses have checked children’s heads in a classroom because a case of lice has been reported, no other cases have been detected from that check. That is a common reported experience from schools across the country. It bolsters the fact that head lice are less communicable than people realize. Remember, lice cannot jump or fly: they are communicated by very close contact with somebody who has the problem.

Therefore, educating students about measures to avoid the problem, such as wearing hair tied back, not sharing hats or other hair implements, and not putting heads together, is a much more effective tool than excluding children from the classroom. We also take institutional measures, such as careful vacuuming, putting away dress-up clothes, etc, when indicated. We suggest that parents reconsider having sleepovers when there are reported cases of lice in their childՉ۪s grade.

  • Once a child is diagnosed with head lice, we work closely with parents to help manage the case effectively. We check affected children when indicated and check in with parents to see if they need further advice and support. Since having head lice in the family is never a pleasant experience, we know that parents whose children have lice do everything in their power (following our instructions and those of their pediatricians) to take care of the problem.

We hope that this information helps parents to put the lice situation in perspective.

October 20, 2006

11 thoughts on “A head lice policy that isn’t a nuisance”

  1. Hi. Just wanted to let you know that there is an all natural and completely organic product that my family uses. I used to be really annoyed by lice, mostly from playgroups and I was using all those great, distrubring chemicals assigned by a doctor but then I tried Kim’s Lice Preventative. You won’t find me using anything else. I spritz it on and forget about the concern of lice. It kills it. It prevents it. I don’t have to worry about time off work or phone calls. It is FDA approved in Canada as well. Google it if you want to find the makers of it.

  2. (WHH)

    Blasts of Dry Air Eradicate Lice

    Parents around the world breathed a sigh of relief when the cure for lice was finally reported by medical researchers. According to “Pediatrics” and other reliable medical journals the method proven most effective is to blast the hair from the roots up with dry air. The method is similar to common hair dryers, only more air and less heat. About a half hour of dry air dessicates the lice and continued bi-weekly sessions keeps hair free of lice, without chemicals, pain or tears. A study outlining dry-air blasting was published in the November 2006 issue of the journal “Pediatrics” as reported by Dale Clayton, a University of Utah biology professor who led the research.

    Each of the six treatment methods took 30 to 35 minutes and used air at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit at air pressure and speeds up to twice that of the common handheld hair dryer. Apparently, long blasts of warm dry air eliminates lice and nits (eggs) by drying them out, not by heating them.

    A note of caution, Clayton urges untrained parents not to use hot hair dryers to try to kill head lice. “We don’t want kids getting burned by parents who think it’s the heat” that kills lice, he says. Devices used were actually cooler than a hair dryer, but used twice as much air flow.

    Dry-air blasting requires that the base of the hair around the roots be thoroughly exposed to the blasts of warm, dry air. Since it is difficult to coordinate hand held dryers and combs and efficiently blast all the lice and nits with enough dry air, special dryers, air funnels and combs were used.

    Clayton conducted the study with Brad Goates, a University of Utah medical student who wrote his master’s thesis about dry-air lice cleaning; and Joseph Atkin, Kevin Wilding, Kurtis Birch and Michael Cottam, all of whom worked in Clayton’s lab as undergraduates; and Sarah Bush, who is Clayton’s wife and co-directs the Center for Alternate Strategies of Parasite Removal, a state-funded Center of Excellence working to commercialize the method. Clayton, Atkin and Wilding co-invented the devices used.

    A dry air fan with twice the air pressure of handheld dryers was used. In the best result, a plastic hose and hand piece with 10 coarse teeth (not like fine-toothed nit combs) was attached to the end of the dryer and raked through hair while hot air blew the opposite direction. All areas of the scalp were raked and exposed to hot air for at least 30 seconds. The handpiece killed 80 percent of hatched lice – a larger proportion than any of other methods tried – and 98 percent of louse eggs(nits).

    The hose and comb method not only had an immediate 80 percent result, the blasts of dry air also prevented remaining lice from breeding – possibly due to stress or sterilization – so virtually all lice were gone when examined one week following that treatment, the scientists reported.

    Here are other dry-air blasting methods tried, from least to most effective:

    — Air hoses from two bonnet-style hair dryers fed air into one bonnet doubling total air flow. This method killed 10 percent of hatched lice and 89 percent of eggs.

    — A handheld blow dryer was used to apply diffuse heating. Each child’s hair was divided into ten sections using hair clips, and the base of each section was heated three minutes while the dryer was moved to ensure even heating. This method killed 21 percent of lice and 97 percent of eggs.

    — A handheld blow dryer was used to apply directed heating. Hair clips were used to divide each child’s hair into 20 sections. The dryer was held still for 30 seconds to heat one side of each section, then held still another 30 seconds to heat the other side. This method killed 55 percent of lice and 98 percent of eggs.

    — A hose was attached to a wall-mounted blow dryer like those in public restrooms. The dryer was put on a table, and the hose used to treat hair divided into 20 sections. The method’s larger air volume killed 62 percent of lice and 97 percent of eggs.

    — With the hair divided into 14 to 20 sections, a double strength air flow hair dryer without a hand piece was used to treat each section with diffuse heat for 60 seconds. Air speed was similar to the restroom hand dryer. This technique killed 76 percent of lice and 94 percent of eggs.

    No problems were reported from stray lice that were blasted into the work area surrounding the children during treatments. Head lice cannot survive more than 24 hours off a host’s head.

    Children and their parents reported none of the treatments had adverse effects. Kids reported less discomfort from the dry-air blasting than from any other method. (WHH)

    Link to University of Utah report on treating lice with dry air.

  3. Freeze then ok then well i still say Kim’s Lice Preventative is easier a small little spray a day keeps the lice away. It is very affordable and easy to use no bad effects or chemicals all natural and organic. check her out.

  4. Dryers, hoses, bonnets, blasts of air…alot to read. I like the simplicity and guarantee of a product that really works and is all natural. Have you ever tried LiceKiller? The active ingredients are oils & enzymes, and it smells good too. You can’t just treat the head, you need to treat the environment too so they don’t return. Check out http://www.LiceKiller.com and if you need someone to talk to, call the volunteers at http://www.headlicehotline.org. 100% money-back guarantee – you can’t go wrong.

  5. I agree! I think there should be full schoolwide checks for lice, not just here and there but full on. Lice is becomming a GIGANTIC epidemic out there. I never heard of the freezing technique until today (from Leanne above), but that is really cool,no pun. I will try that next time. We used http://www.licetokill.com when we got it, and so glad our lice nightmare is finally over! Schools should take a stronger stance for sure, CHECK ALL THE KIDS, NOT JUST A FEW!! Sheesh…

    Thanks for the article.


  6. This is a really good article and the comments are interesting as well especially regarding hot air. Thanks.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with you — schools should take a stronger stand against head lice for sure!

  8. It really important that schools should take action to prevent head lice from spreading. There are lots of over the counter shampoos that claims it could prevent head lice, yet natural method of treating head lice is more effective.

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