Sending kids to school with head lice

Pediatricians say forcing children to stay home over lice does no good. Is it time to ditch "no-nit" policies?

Stumped, or lice-ridden?
(Image credit: Corbis)

It's common knowledge — when kids have head lice, they shouldn't go to school. But a report just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics says it does no good to force children to stay home at the first sign of nits — small, empty louse egg casings — in their hair. "It makes no medical sense because the nits... they're really stuck on the kid's hair," said Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a co-author of the report, as quoted by Reuters. "It just sort of increases the hysteria and it makes kids miss school unnecessarily." Should parents listen to this unconventional wisdom?

There's no reason to freak out over lice: The doctors are right, says Alexandra Gekas at Woman's Day. "While absolutely gross, head lice don't really do any damage" — they don't spread disease — "so the real damage may be done when kids are pulled out of school." Kids who have a few nits may never get a full infestation. Instead of torturing your children by quarantining them, clean their bedding in hot water, shampoo them with drugstore treatments, and send them back to class.

"Kids with lice should still go to school, according to report"

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Not so fast — classmates deserve protection: "It's true that sending a kid home from school until they are nit-free not only stigmatizes them, but hurts their education," says Paula Bernstein at Strollerderby. "But I’ve seen firsthand how lice can spread through a classroom." It may not be ideal, but we parents need to know that schools are doing something to make sure that children with lice are being treated, and "no-nit" policies may still be the best option.

"Should kids with head lice stay at school?"

You may want to redouble your preventive efforts: This AAP report means we parents have more reason than ever to warn our kids about lice, says Lisa Milbrand at iVillage. I've settling on a strategy of preemptive fear, constantly reminding my long-haired daughter that "sharing even a teeny-tiny barrette can mean (cue the sinister music) bugs in your hair." If the pediatricians' recommendations catch on in schools, clearly "I’ll need to step up my campaign."

"New recommendation says kids with lice should go to school anyway — Ick!"

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