Updated on July 24, 2020
By LiceDoctors Technician, Sean McGee
The “no nit” policy was the norm for at least the 40 years I’ve walked this earth. It was basically mandated at the school level that if you were found to have lice and/or nits (lice eggs) you would be sent home from school and not allowed to return until all traces of bugs and eggs were gone. There were varying degrees of strictness with respect to how closely schools adhered to this “no nit” policy. There were school nurses who may have diagnosed a student with hundreds of nits. If that child returned to school with even one nit remaining the child had to go home. Then there were nurses who would take the time to pull out a couple of nits if that was all that remained in the hair.
Schools Continue to Drop “No Nit” Lice Policies
Today the “no nit” policy is being dropped in more and more schools. So why is this and how does it affect your children? Well, the lice policy is determined by each school district or even at the individual school level.
The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of School Nurses have endorsed a relatively recent policy which allows children to return to school with nits in the hair if no lice are present, because lice do not spread disease. In their opinions, too much school was being missed to the detriment of your child. And, yet, while it is true that lice do not spread disease, the evidence on how risky it is to allow your child to return to school with nits in their hair has yet to be proven. The evidence points both ways. Source: nydailynews.com
Against Dropping “No Nit” Policies
In order to ascertain that there are no live lice in the hair, you really need to do a thorough search of the hair. Lice are extremely fast and agile when moving through your hair and even professionals can’t rely on a visual inspection unless it is an extremely advanced case. Lice are very sensitive to light and movement, and they camouflage well in all colors of hair. This means that some students who appear to have nits only, may, in fact, be harboring bugs. School nurses only have the time to do a cursory search for lice; because of other demands on their time, they cannot apply oil and do a thorough search to find out if there are live lice in the hair. The nurse may not see live lice in the hair but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.
As a matter of fact, studies have shown in controlled tests that up to 80% of the time where it was thought that only nits were present, after combing by a professional, there were, in fact, live lice in the hair after all. Through years of experience, we at LiceDoctors have learned just how quickly lice spread from one person to the next, and one thing is certain: if your child has eggs in their hair, then at some point, there were live lice in their hair. Statistics show they probably still are there. For sure the nits are there. As a technician for LiceDoctors, I can’t tell you how many times I have combed someone’s hair and it took me a good 20 minutes to finally find the lice that had laid these eggs in your child’s hair. However, without a doubt, had I not found that female louse, I know for certain that lice would have spread through your house very quickly.
The implication of this is clear: if you drop a “no nit” policy and allow children into school with nits only, you may inadvertently allow students with live lice into the classroom. What is the difference between live lice and nits with regard to the transmission of lice? Only live lice are contagious. You cannot transmit nits to another person. So when you get rid of the school “no nit” lice policy, you are likely making it possible for students with lice to be in the classroom.
“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...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.” https://www.headlice.org/comb/what-are-head-lice-and-nits/no-nit-policy/
If you have spent a lot of time and money on prescription lice treatments, lice killing kits, and/or professional lice treatment and you have finally gotten rid of lice, do you want a child with an active case sitting next to your child?
In Favor of Dropping “No Nit” Policies
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) all advocate that "no-nit" policies should be discontinued. Some of the reasons are as follow:
- Lice are a nuisance; they are not dangerous nor do they carry disease.
- The policy causes unnecessary school absenteeism, and the downside of that far outweighs the risks associated with head lice.
- Misdiagnosis of nits is very common during lice checks conducted by non-medical personnel. Some students with debris or dandruff are sent home due to human error in diagnosis.
- Many nits are more than ¼ inch from the scalp. These eggs are not viable and are very unlikely to hatch to become crawling lice, or may in fact be empty shells, also known as casings. These are sometimes mistaken for viable nits.
- Nits are glued to hair strands and cannot be transferred successfully to other people. This is very important. Nits are not contagious and there is no reason for students to miss school if they only have nits,
- It usually takes about 4-6 few weeks for a case of head lice to be diagnosed and during that time the child has been in contact with other children. Basically, a “no nit” policy is a case of too little, too late.
The AAP policy states that since a child with head lice has likely had the case for over a month by the time it is uncovered, the child should be allowed to stay in school with the caveat that he or she should not be in direct head to head contact with others. The child’s privacy should be maintained and the parents should be apprised and advised to treat the child. Many research scientists state that “no-nit” policies should be dropped as students should be in school.
More and More Schools Recommend that Parents Conduct Head Lice Checks
Since many schools no longer check for lice, they suggest that parents do head lice checks on a regular basis. While it is less likely now that your child will be sent home from school due to head lice and/or nits, you do want to discover a lice case before it is advanced. It is important for you to know your school’s lice policy. For your convenience LiceDoctors has taken the time to research and post school head lice policies from all over the country so look to see if your school is listed under our Locations. Simply click on your state, choose your closest city, then scroll to the bottom of the page.
LiceDoctors Will Make a House Call and Treat You and Your Family
Whether your school has moved to a “no nit” policy or not, it is still very important to get a professional in to check you and treat your family, so that you can check to see if you have live lice and treat the lice and nits. If you have been exposed to head lice, whether in school or at home, it is never too early to be checked. If you have contracted lice, chances are there is still a bug in your hair. The lice lay eggs at a rate of 6-10 per day. If your technician finds head lice, she will remove them before your case gets worse. You will have peace of mind of knowing that your child is not spreading lice throughout the class.
LiceDoctors comes to your home and your lice specialist will apply oil, use a professional lice comb to remove nits and lice, and then after drying the hair, she will nitpick. She will do a strand by strand picking out of the nits so that the case will not return. Again, the nits blend into the hair so expertise is the key to lice eradication. She will teach you how to identify lice and nits and how to help prevent lice going forward.
LiceDoctors is proud of our track record and honored to help our clients get relief from head lice. For an appointment or more information call today at 800-224-2537 for fast, safe, and effective lice treatment in your own home. Remember: lice will not go away by themselves, even if you can only see nits in the hair. LiceDoctors lice treatment is generally lower-priced than lice clinics and the service is more convenient and private. We accept HSAs and FSAs. Go with the lice removal service that has been successful on over 500,000 clients!