The School Lice Letter
Why Sending Out A School Lice Letter Isn’t The Answer
What is a School Lice Letter?
A school lice letter is pretty much what it sounds like. A letter that gets sent home with your child or in the mail, to inform you that there is a detected case of lice in your child’s class or school, that urges you to check your child for lice as a precautionary measure. You may also get this if your child is the one confirmed to have lice, or you may get a phone call directly from the school.
These are two of the most common questions among frustrated parents we tend to hear when it comes to lice in schools:
While some school districts in the Portland, OR area continue to send students with lice home, as well as notify other parents when lice infestations are discovered within the classroom, many area districts have changed their policies when it comes to head lice.
What the Experts Say
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school, and both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advocate that “no nit” policies should be discontinued.
When a child gets head lice, parent frustration is understandable; dealing with head lice can be overwhelming. But there are numerous reasons why no-nit policies and letters home ultimately make no difference when it comes to preventing head lice infestations.
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 about half, 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. Even our trained technicians can only spot lice visually about 30% of the time, which is why in the clinic we do a more comprehensive wet screening.
A female louse lays approximately 5-7 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 as it multiplies exponentially. It typically takes 4-6 weeks before an infestation is visually detected by families.
What Actually Works
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-brown and close to the scalp, are often missed upon visual inspection, and are difficult to see in darker hair. Parents may miss lice infestations on their own child, and send them back into the school setting untreated.
So what are parents to do? A parents 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.
How to Screen for Lice at Home
Effective screenings require just a few simple tools. Parents are encouraged to invest in a good lice comb, like the Terminator Comb carried by Lice Clinics of America-Portland, OR. Using a spray bottle filled with leave-in conditioner, detangler, or water, parents should wet the hair behind the ears, at the nape of the neck, and at the crown, and comb from the scalp to the ends of the hair shaft looking for small grayish-brown eggs, or live lice. If it seems attached ton the hair it’s possible its a lice egg. But if it is removed easily it may just be dry skin.
For parents who want to be absolutely sure, Lice Clinics of America in Portland, OR provides screenings and instruction. And if your child does have lice, our FDA-cleared heated air lice treatment kills all lice and eggs in as little as an hour, guaranteed.
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. But when they do show up, you can trust Lice Clinics of America in Portland to solve your lice problem fast!