Doctors: Lice no reason to keep kids home from school

(WPRI) — New lice guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics may leave some parents scratching their heads.

The group now says children should not miss school because they have lice. The reasoning – lice is a nuisance, not a serious disease or sign of poor hygiene.

Size of head lice compared to a penny
Actual size of the three lice forms compared to a penny. (CDC Photo)

Currently, many schools require a student to stay out of school until the child is free of lice and nits, which are lice eggs.

However now, the AAP says students should be allowed to finish the school day, be treated at home, and then return to school the following day.

“Pediatricians are encouraged to educate schools and communities that no-nit policies are unjust and should be abandoned,” the organization said in a news release.

The AAP said most cases of head lice are acquired outside school. In addition, the report said because lice do not hop or jump – they only crawl – transmission mainly occurs with direct contact.

While indirect spread, through items like hats or combs, is much less likely to occur, the AAP says children should be taught not to share those personal items.

Treating Lice

The AAP recommends using over-the-counter medications containing 1 percent permethrin or pyrethrins for cases of active lice. Parents should follow up this treatment with nit removal and wet combing, and then reapply the treatment at day 9 and 18, if needed.

Parents only need to involve their doctor if regular methods don’t or can’t work. A doctor may prescribe spinosad or topical ivermectin. Accoding to AAP, these are new medications released since 2010, the last time lice recommendations were published.

To prevent resistance, the AAP urges the treatments only be used for those with head lice, and not as a preventative measure

Once head lice is detected, all household members should be checked. While excessive environmental cleaning is not necessary, the AAP says washing pillow cases and treating natural bristle hair care items is reasonable.

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