Updated on July 24, 2020
By: Tierna Moser
There are pros and cons for school “no nit” policies. Read here to understand the thinking behind today’s current school lice policies across the nation.
As information about head lice and how they spread becomes more transparent, the policies for admission and exclusion from school because of a case of head lice continues to evolve and varies greatly in schools all over the United States. Some schools hold fast to strict “no nit” policies, which require that children be free from all signs of head lice before returning to school, including lice eggs. (called nits). Others simply require that children have no live lice before returning to school, which is a more relaxed policy, allowing children to return to school once the child no longer has live bugs on his or her head and is effectively no longer contagious. Children with nits may stay in schools with this policy.
For many years, “no nit” policies were the recommended standard for schools. It was thought that in order to keep other children safe and to prevent the spread of head lice, children found to have a case needed to be completely clear of all signs of lice before being returned to class. However, it is the trend now to say that these policies were a bit of overkill. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Association of School Nurses recommend getting rid of “no nit” policies in schools. Among the reasons for this recommendation are the fact that nits are not contagious and, when found, a case of head lice has likely been present in the classroom for weeks - having already been transmitted to other children. In addition, the cost to schools of spending time looking for head lice, as well as the loss of work for parents and education time for children, has been deemed not worth any benefit that may come from a child’s exclusion from school for the presence of nits.
Parents and children alike struggle needlessly with the mental impact exclusion from school due to a case of head lice causes. Head lice technician Margaret Steingraber remembers all too clearly the trauma that a case of head lice, further complicated by a “no nit” school policy, brought on her and her daughter. She states, “I remember sitting and waiting for my oldest daughter’s elementary school principal and school nurse…. My chest tightened when they walked in, and tension was coming off of my daughter in waves. As the two were using pencils to look through her head, it made me physically ill when they straightened and declared her unfit for school. My daughter began to cry. I teared up, but managed a muttered thanks before hustling her out of the office.” Having missed a week of school already, her daughter was set up to fall even further behind, even though Margaret had done everything she could to get rid of lice and her daughter was no longer contagious. (This was years before Margaret became an experienced lice technician to help others so they would not need to go through this same experience.)
CASE FOR “NO NIT” SCHOOL LICE POLICIES
There are certainly differing opinions on whether or not “no nit” policies are over-zealous. While this may not be a practical standard for all communities, there are very clear pros for maintaining such strict policies. For example - the leading cause of recurrent cases of head lice is treatments that do not remove all of the lice eggs from an infested person’s head. Just one egg left in the hair can effectively start a case of head lice all over again even though at one point, the child’s head may have been free of any live bugs. This means that if a child with nits is allowed in school, these nits will eventually hatch and become contagious. While nits are not contagious in the nit stage of development, they become contagious a few days after they hatch when the baby bug (nymph) matures and begins to crawl. Basically, while nits are not contagious, if a child with them is allowed in school, you are on a slippery slope. Who knows when each nit will hatch and eventually be transferable?
By refusing to allow children in class with any sign of head lice, families are encouraged and incentivized to provide effective treatment of head lice for their family the first time; this, in effect, saves time in the long run by avoiding re-treatment and ensures that families are not exposed repeatedly to harmful chemicals. A “no nit” policy also removes the burden from school nurses and other staff when trying to determine if a nit in the hair is viable or not. In a school that enforces a “no nit” policy, a nit is a nit and no further time needs to be wasted trying to determine the viability of the egg, allowing the nurse to direct her attention to other matters affecting the health and safety of students.HeadLice.org
CASE AGAINST “NO NIT” SCHOOL LICE POLICIES
“No nit” policies can, and do, cause unnecessary hardship for students and families. The achilles heel of “no nit” policies comes down to the basic fact that, whether they are viable or not, nits are not contagious. If a strand of hair with a nit on it is separated from the head, it will not hatch. Nits are glued to the strands of hair and are not mobile, so you cannot get lice from someone who just has nits. Some families, especially those with multiple children requiring treatment, may not have the time needed to remove all of the eggs from every child’s head in one evening, even though effective treatment killing all of the live bugs may have been administered. In these cases children will miss school and the parent will miss work to address nits, which, again, are not even contagious.
Additionally, you may think it uncommon, but there are many instances where untrained teachers, administrators, and even school nurses put in charge of lice checks mis-identify dandruff, debris, or DEC plugs as nits, again, excluding the child from class until the parent is able to prove that his or her child doesn’t even have lice, often at the expense of a doctor’s visit or unnecessary expensive treatment at a lice salon.
LICEDOCTORS GUARANTEES RETURN TO SCHOOL - WITH EITHER POLICY
No matter what your child’s school requires, the treatment provided by your technician when you call LiceDoctors addresses lice at every stage - eradicating a case of head lice in just one visit. Your experienced technician completes treatment on everyone to completely and effectively get rid of lice, using all natural oils, professional combing, and hand picking to ensure your family is nit-free and can return to business as usual as soon as LiceDoctors leave. Your technician will go over an easy proprietary aftercare plan developed by our on-staff medical doctor that ensures this case is gone permanently and that you don’t have to spend hours cleaning out your house. Treatment is available to you on the same day you call in most cases, so you do not have to worry about missing school or work tomorrow. Minimize the impact lice has on your family and call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to schedule your appointment with a lice expert today!