How long should kids with lice be kept out of school?

Lice is the dread of many parents. It’s a real nuisance and it creeps many people out. But, it does NOT cause disease. It is for this reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that after proper treatment with an over- the-counter shampoo, children should be able to return to school.

Here are some interesting facts about lice:

The first time a child is infested with lice, it can take up to 4 to 6 weeks before the itching begins. This means that often a child has been in the classroom for over a month with lice before showing symptoms.
The itching doesn’t come from the crawling critters themselves, but rather from the saliva they release into the scalp while feeding on it. Ewwww!!
Lice don’t fly and they don’t jump; they can only crawl. So they can only be transmitted from one individual to another through close contact of the head.

What to do if your child has lice?

  1. Don’t panic! It doesn’t mean your child is dirty or has poor hygiene. It just means your child’s head came into contact with another head that had lice.
  2. Buy an over-the-counter shampoo like 1% Permethrin as the first line of treatment. Follow the package instructions closely.
  3. I recommend a comb-out with a metal comb paying close attention to the nits within 1 centimeter (a little less than half an inch) of the scalp-these are the ones most likely to survive when they hatch. Many experts advise doing the the comb-out on wet hair because it slows down the movement of the lice, making them less likely to escape the comb.
  4. Repeat the shampoo and comb-out in 9 days to kill and remove any hatched nits that were missed during the first application.
  5. Herculean house cleaning efforts are unnecessary. Just clean bedding, brushes, and items that came in direct contact with the affected head in the last 48 hours. A temperature of 130 degrees F will kill the lice and nits. Vacuum any fabric areas like couches and car seats. Stuffed animals can be bagged for 2 weeks to ensure they are lice-free.
  6. Treat anyone who shared a bed with the affected individual, even if that person is symptom-free. Other family members should only be treated if they have lice.
  7. If after treatment, your child still has lice, speak to your pediatrician about other options.
  8. Many parents are hesitant about using the lice shampoos on their children. If this is the case, a proper comb-out every other day for two weeks should do the trick. It’s labor-intensive, but can be effective!

Let’s put the ‘creepies’ aside, and keep healthy children where they belong-in school.