Parents must take care to safeguard their children from not only COVID-19 but also the common cold, hand, foot, and mouth illness, and head lice now that children are back in school. However, head lice are not nearly as contagious as you may have believed.

The most recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on head lice in children have changed significantly from previous recommendations. It is no longer customary to keep children at home until they are free of lice. Parents should send children to school while treating lice at home.

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In addition to recommending parents to continue sending their children to school during an infestation, the AAP highlights the need to remove the stereotype that head lice are the result of poor cleanliness.

Where Do Head Lice Originate?

According to a recent AAP report, head lice have existed throughout history. They are parasites that dwell around the scalp and feed on human blood. No matter a person’s socioeconomic standing, head lice are a frequent problem in all parts of the world. The annual cost of treatment in the United States is estimated at $500 million.

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Lice do not distinguish between people with varying hair lengths, and frequent hair washing or brushing has no effect on the infestation. Lice can transmit from person to person by direct head-to-head contact. Instead of jumping or hopping, lice creep down the hair.

Spread can occur during periods when the heads of children are in close contacts, such as nap time. There is typically little motive for lice to leave a healthy head where they live, feed, and lay eggs unless they crawl unintentionally from one person’s hair to another.

New Medication for the Treatment of Head Lice

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The authors of the AAP study emphasize that treatments for head lice should be safe and age-appropriate, and should eliminate all live lice and nits from the scalp of the child (eggs). They state that it should be inexpensive and simple to use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pyrethroids as the first-line treatment for lice. Pyrethroids kill and paralyze lice and nits. However, they do not always eliminate all nits, so a second treatment may be necessary.

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It is optional to remove nits with a comb; however, doing so may help decrease social stigma. You can acquire and employ a specialized “nit comb” to remove any eggs adhering to your child’s hair near the scalp.

Lice can develop resistance to pyrethroids; when this occurs, the AAP recommends other treatments. Effective modern therapies include nonprescription dimethicone-based treatments and prescription drugs like spinosad.

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If your child has lice, you should always consult a pediatrician. Self-diagnosis is not always accurate, as dandruff or a stray aphid caught in a child’s hair may be misinterpreted as lice symptoms. Treatment should be reserved for cases confirmed by a physician.

Maintaining Student Attendance Despite Lice

You may be surprised to learn that the AAP now supports keeping children in school for lice treatment. Some schools have a “no-nit policy,” which requires students to remain at home until all nits have been removed from their hair.

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However, according to specialists, children with nits may no longer have active infestations, especially those who have been treated. According to the AAP, no-nit regulations may potentially violate a child’s civil rights. In fact, numerous healthcare professionals believe that no-nit rules need to be opposed.

Sequestering children at home owing to the presence of nits, especially after treatment, is unnecessary, deprives children of educational possibilities, and creates problems for parents of young children. The isolation of children from school further exacerbates the related stigma and mental stress.

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According to the AAP, head lice screenings in schools have not had a significant effect on the number of cases in schools over time. They argue that it is not cost-effective and stigmatizes children suspected of having head lice. Instead, the AAP encourages schools to offer programs that educate and assist families in managing head lice.

The Social Stigma Attached To Head Lice

Although head lice are commonly linked with uncleanliness, this is not the case. The stigma surrounding head lice infestations can be traumatic for children and their parents. Children with head lice may be excluded from school, friendships, and other activities. The scenario can be distressing for both parents and children.

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By normalizing head lice as a common issue, children will feel less alone. Lice can afflict anyone, including children who have done nothing wrong. It has no grave health risks and is curable.

Even while head lice are not considered a threat to medical or public health, children who discover them may experience embarrassment or fear. Be sure to emphasize that finding these insects is typical, similar to acquiring a cold.

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If your child has lice, try to remain calm. They are extremely frequent among youngsters and are not indicative of inadequate hygiene. Lice are neither hazardous nor incurable.

Head-to-head contact should be avoided to prevent the transmission of lice. Lice can be discovered on combs and pillows, but they typically move from one child’s hair to another’s when the hairs are in contact.

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Consult your child’s pediatrician if you suspect they have lice. They will confirm the presence of lice and recommend the most effective treatment. Meanwhile, your child may continue to attend school if the school permits. To prevent children from feeling ashamed, you can remove the lice from their hair with a comb. Additionally, you can request that the school retain confidentiality.