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  • Lice in Schools

    What procedures should a school follow if a student has head lice?

    Head lice are tiny parasites that can live on the human head. They survive by sucking blood from the scalp. Lice eggs, called “nits,” can attach to strands of hair. Lice can cause the head to itch but have not been proven to cause disease.

    Head lice are very common among children and adolescents. Students of any income, social status or race can get lice. Head lice are not a result of poor personal hygiene or an unsanitary home, community or school. However, lice historically carry a stigma of uncleanliness, so having them can feel embarrassing for students, parents, families and schools.

    We follow recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address head lice. These guidelines recently changed. You do not need to immediately send home a student with head lice. The student does not need to stay away from school until the lice and nits are gone.

    Allow a student with head lice to finish the school day. However, as soon as head lice are diagnosed, the school nurse should:

    • Tell the student not to share items that touched their head, like combs, brushes, caps or pillowcases until the lice and nits are gone.
    • Notify the student’s parent/guardian the student has head lice. Tell the parent/guardian:
      • Wash items that touched the student’s head, like combs, brushes, caps or pillowcases.
      • How to treat head lice, like using special combs and shampoos to remove lice and nits.
      • Start treatment when the student gets home from school.
      • Student can return to school once treatment has started.
      • Be diligent and consistent in daily treatment to remove lice and nits.
    • Follow up with the parent/guardian periodically to ensure treatment continues.

    As long as treatment continues, the student can remain in school until the lice and nits are gone.