All parents dread getting that little slip from school saying head lice have broken out in the classroom. Although this is a common affliction, it often leads to unnecessary worry. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendations about dealing with lice in school and at home. As a parent, you should be aware of the new guidelines.
No Nit Policies
Lice are harder to get than many people believe. They can only crawl, so they are mainly spread by lengthy head to head contact. Even sharing brushes and combs do not often cause you to "catch" them. You can also try on hats without fear. However, schools often behave as if lice can jump at will from person to person. The Academy stresses that no-lice or -nits in school is a bad policy. Children should be allowed to finish the school day, receive treatment at home, and return to school the next day. No educational time needs to be lost.
Over-the-counter pediculicides are recommended for those children and adults who live in areas where lice haven't become resistant to them. The medication should contain one percent permethrin or pyrethrins and be followed with the prescribed combing and nit removal. These medications are reapplied on the ninth day and again on the 18th day if necessary.
In areas that have developed a resistance to these products, doctors may prescribe topical ivermectin or spinosad, medications that were developed fairly recently. You may also need these medications if you have been unable to rid your child or yourself of lice after trying other methods. Occasionally, lice can become a chronic condition that requires medical intervention by a pediatrician.
You may be able to nip the problem in the bud if you conduct regular head checks at your home. Choose a well-lit room. Part the person's hair and look for moving lice and nits. Nits will be easier to spot because lice are quick and hide from light. Nits are small white or yellowish specks attached to hair right above the scalp, often behind the ears and neck. You can tell them apart from dandruff or other materials because they are virtually glued to the hair strands. If you get to the lice early, you will be better able to contain the problem.
A lice infestation can be frustrating, but a calm and methodical reaction to the problem will help you and your child to better deal with the situation. Also, be aware that lice do not spread as easily as some people believe, so the itch you feel is probably paranoia.