Is a “no nit” policy good or bad?
The two of the most common questions we hear from frustrated parents; why don’t schools send more lice letters home, and why is there not a “no nit” policy in place? Most school boards in our region continue to employ a “no nit” policy and send students home when they are found to have nits, as well as notify other parents via school lice letters. However, some schools do not employ a “no nit” policy at all when it comes to head lice. Many public health organizations have deemed head lice a non-health related issue as lice is just more of a nuisance then anything. When a child gets head lice, parent frustration is understandable; dealing with head lice can be overwhelming already but adding in missed time at work or school seems cruel. However, when you’re one of the lucky ones that don’t have lice, you want to make sure your child stays that way. This is where people seem to disagree. Letters home and “no nit” policies are a good idea to keep parents alert, but they might not make a difference when it comes to actually preventing head lice infestations. By the time you see that letter, your child has been exposed for a week or two already as most infestations take a couple weeks to diagnose without proper head screenings.
In order to identify head lice infestations in school, all students would need to be screened on a regular basis, and most, if not all schools, simply do not have the staff or resources to dedicate to frequent screenings. Routine screenings would be necessary because not all students with lice infestations are symptomatic. 1 in 20 children have head lice at any given time, and of those children only 40% experience the tell-tale itch, which is an allergic reaction to the saliva from head lice. So while the school may identify some children with lice, it’s likely there are others in school with active infestations who show no obvious symptoms.
Early on in an infestation, lice and eggs are often missed, especially when only a visual screening is conducted. A female louse lays approximately 3-5 eggs per day, and eggs take another 7-10 days before hatching, so an infestation may not be obvious one week, but much easier to spot the following week.
Even if schools send letters home encouraging parents to check their children for head lice, many parents do not know what to look for or how to identify head lice. Debris, dandruff, and hair product are often mistaken for lice eggs. Actual viable lice eggs, which are grayish-tan and close to the scalp, are often missed upon visual inspection, as many times are difficult to see. Parents may miss lice infestations on their own child, and send them back into the school setting untreated.
So what are frustrated parents to do? So “no nit” policy or not, a parent’s best defense against head lice is to conduct routine screenings at home, because lice letter or not, there are always children in school with head lice. Effective screenings require just a few simple tools and only a couple minutes. Parents are encouraged to invest in a good lice comb, like the Terminator Comb offered by Lice Clinics of Canada – Ontario. Parents should check the hot spots behind the ears, at the nape of the neck, and at the crown of the head. Remembering to comb from as close to the scalp as possible all the way to the ends of the hair looking for small grayish-tan eggs, or live lice. For parents who want to be absolutely sure they do or do not have lice, Lice Clinics of Canada provides professional screenings and instruction. Lice doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and routine at-home screenings are a parent’s best defense against the continued spread of head lice.