New rules: Head lice can go to school

They’re often a fact of life for school‑aged children. They’re inconvenient, but cause no medical harm and can be effectively treated.

head lice, Academy of Pediatrics
Head lice can be annoying, but infestations pose no health risks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated guidance and treatment for head lice in the August 2010 print issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.

The AAP has determined that head lice are not a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene and, in contrast to body lice, are not responsible for the spread of any disease. (Read more about body lice.) In the past, many schools adhered to the policy of sending children home if nits, or the eggs of head lice, were found or suspected to be present.

Now, the AAP says that no healthy child should be excluded from or miss school because of head lice, and no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned. Informed school nurses can help with diagnosis and suggestions about treatment.

Because head lice are usually transmitted by head‑to‑head contact, parents should carefully check a child’s head before and after attending a sleepover or camp where children share sleeping quarters. Find out more about what head lice, and nits actually look like.

There are many ways to treat active infestations, but not all products and techniques have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. One percent permethrin lotion is recommended as initial treatment for most head lice infestations with a second application seven to 10 days after the first.

Parents and caregivers should make sure that any treatment chosen is safe; preferred treatments would be those which are easy to use, reasonably priced and proven to be non‑toxic. All products must be used exactly according to manufacturer’s instructions. The AAP recommends talking to your pediatrician for help with diagnosis, treatment choices and management of difficult cases.


Dealing with head lice