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Parents Are Not Aware Kids’ Classmates Have Head Lice

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Winter months are known for head lice because students bring winter accessories like hats and coats to school, yet some parents say they have not heard of many head lice cases this year, which leaves them scratching their heads as to why. In an effort to keep kids from missing school and shield children with lice from embarrassment, the national guidelines for head lice policy in schools might be a little more lenient than previous years. Some schools are no longer sending home ‘lice notes’ to parents or requiring kids with head lice to stay home from school. Nurses say the notes cause unnecessary panic, while some parents complain about their kids being exposed, other parents are upset over less restrictive head lice policies that allow kids with live bugs in their hair to return to the classroom.

School policies regarding head lice are sometimes confusing. For instance, recently we were providing school lice checks in Park Slope, and found nits in a child’s hair. The school notified the child’s parents that we “just found nits”. This can cause confusion for parents, because the assumption can follow that because there are “just nits”, there are no live lice. Here’s some information that might clear things up a bit. Nits (lice eggs) come in two states. There are viable (unhatched) nits, darker in color and close to the scalp. They indicate a current infestation. Then there are the empty nits (the eggshells), which are still glued further down the hair shaft and look like very tiny insect wings. These empty nits can indicate that either a current or past infestation is happening. Then there are the lice themselves. Head lice are photophobic, which means they run from light. When doing school head lice checks one sees live lice infrequently because they are adept at running from light. All this means that when a parent is told there are “just nits” in the hair, the problem is to discern whether they’re viable or not. And since live lice can take several minutes to hunt down in the hair, it’s not feasible to find them within the time allowed for checking for head lice in schools.

What to do? Take a gamble that nothing is going on? A thorough combing with a good lice comb will establish what kinds of nits are in the hair, viable eggs or empty shells, and if live lice are present. The rest of the family should have a combing check too, since one can have a couple of lice in the hair that haven’t yet lain nits. Head lice are rascally!

If you or your child have been exposed to lice in school, give our lice removal experts at Lice Free Noggins a call.

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