Updated on June 25, 2020
How to Get Your Child Back to School After Head Lice
By LiceDoctors Technician, Kelli Ogle
Each school district has its own set of rules regarding when it is allowed for a child with lice or nits to return. While more and more schools are dropping their strict “no nit” lice policies, it is important for you to learn what your school policy is.
You get a call with the news that your child has head lice, you then start freaking out and treating the entire house and child. Some parents know what to do to get rid of head lice, if they have been through it before, but the question that arises every time is WHEN CAN MY CHILD GO BACK TO SCHOOL?
No Nit School Lice Policies
Many years ago, when LiceDoctors first stated treating families with lice, if a child was infested, she always needed to be checked by the school nurse before being readmitted. We would get a call from a parent if even one nit (egg) was found in the hair by the nurse. School nurses would send a note home to all parents in the grade if a case was uncovered.
Upon being diagnosed the child would be sent home. Upon returning to school the child and often the parent would need to stop by the nurse’s office for a lice check. If the child passed muster, then he or she would need to be checked a week to ten days later. Sometimes that nurse would insist on checking every child in the class or grade of an infested child.
Of course, there was some variation within those strict rules. Some nurses would check a child who had been treated and if she found a nit or two, she would pull out the nits and send the child on to the classroom. Some nurses would see one nit and not allow the child to return to the classroom.
Children were stigmatized and many children ended up missing many days of school. In fact, head lice became the second leading cause of absenteeism from school. There is still a lot of controversy over whether is it is better to retain no nit policies or to drop them.The advocacy organization National Pediculosis Association in Newton, Massachusetts maintains the position that anyone with head lice should be kept home from school until there are no further signs of nits or bugs.
“A Healthy Standard for Children and their Families
The National Pediculosis Association, recommends the No Nit Policy as the public health standard intended to keep children lice free, nit free, and in school. Pediculosis represents one of the most common communicable childhood diseases and whether or not we understand how this has evolved, it is important to acknowledge head lice as a problem when raising or caring for children. The Spirit of the No Nit Policy is to minimize head lice infestations as a public health problem and to keep children in school lice and nit free.”
Some schools continue to adhere to the no-nit policies. They do not want to risk having a child in the classroom who may pass along a case to classmates. In these schools, it may take longer to get your child back into school, particularly if she is being treated by chemical lice treatments which have been known to have poor results in eradicating lice. If your child attends a school with a no nit policy, it is especially important to bring in a professional right away to your home to ensure that your child will be admitted to school the next day.
New Rules in Schools
The lice policies at schools slowly began to change in 1995 when the American Association of Pediatrics and then the National Association of School Nurses recommended that schools drop their no nit policies. They reasoned that by the time most kids are diagnosed, the lice have been in the hair for at least six weeks, giving the bugs plenty of opportunity to spread. Furthermore, nits are not contagious, only bugs are.
There was a lot of resistance among schools to these recommendations. Parents arrived at Board of Education and PTA meetings to express their fears that these proposed new lice policies would lead to increases in the incidences despite some evidence to the contrary. Over the past few years, though, more and more schools have dropped their no nit policies making it a lot easier for kids who have had lice to return to school.
When Can Kids Return to Schools that Have Dropped No Nit Policies?
If a school has dropped its no nit policy, the expectation is that a child found to have an active case of lice will stay in school until the end of the day, and then go home to be treated. The child will likely still be expected to be checked by the school nurse the next day, and there should be no live bugs as well as significantly fewer nits. If that is not the case, usually the child can remain in school and should present himself or herself to the nurse the next day. If there is no change in the level of infestation, that child may not be admitted to school. Permission to enter may be up to the school nurse. There still exists quite a lot of variation in how much infestation is permitted.
Assuming your child’s school does not have a strict no nit policy in place, I would recommend sending your child back to school when there are no more live bugs in your child’s hair. Nits do not move because they are attached to the hair, so they are not a risk until they hatch. It would be okay to send your child/children back to school while trying to do the nit combing process, because it could take a few days to get all of them out.
If you are like me at all, you do not want to send your child to school with an active head lice infestation, just to pass it around school and risk getting it right back. Even if your child does not get it back, I would not want another parent to have to go through it also.
If you want professional help, call LiceDoctors. We will dispatch a lice specialist to your home to eradicate the active infestation. The next day, you can feel confident that your child can return to school and she or he will not be contagious. For lice treatment service that you can trust, call 615-953-0047 - the most experienced lice service in the Smyrna and La Vergne area. We guarantee that after treatment, your child will be admitted to school, no matter what the lice policy is.