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Head Lice

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If you have questions about or concerns that your student may have head lice, please contact your student's school nurse.

Head lice are small parasitic insects that live by biting the host which can cause an itchy scalp. Lice are gray, brown or black and can be difficult to see.  They do not leave the human host on their own; they must be physically dislodged.  They do not infest pets, furniture, carpeting or toys.  The female louse lays eggs (nits) which are tiny, smooth, and oval in shape. The eggs range in color from white to yellowish-white to dark-brown; they are glued firmly at an angle to the side of the hair shaft. Nits are easier to spot at the nape of the neck, or behind the ears.

Prevention

Children should be taught not to share combs, brushes & hats.  Regular head inspections by parents is an excellent way to detect any early infestations.

When inspecting your child for head lice, part the hair into sections. Make sure the room is well-lit. The nits stick to the hair shaft and must be pulled off with a fingernail to remove (or a lice comb can be used). That is one way to tell the difference between a nit and a dandruff flake. Dandruff can be easily flicked with your finger. Nits cannot be flicked or washed away. Although head lice are a nuisance, head lice do not spread disease.

ISD procedures about managing head lice are based on recommended guidelines by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of School Nurses and the Harvard School of Public Health as well as the current standard of practice in neighboring school districts.

Lice spread from person to person when people are in close contact or when they share clothing or personal items that have been in contact with the head or neck. Lice do not fly or jump: they crawl. Lice can infest anyone–young, old, rich, poor, clean or dirty. Avoid sharing personal items such as hats, coats, brushes, combs and pillows.

Resources

Head Lice Management Procedures

Standard Procedure

  • A student suspected of head lice will be referred to the school nurse or health room specialist.
  • If students are identified with lice by either the presence of lice or nits, the nurse or health room specialist should:
  • Notify the parent/guardian via phone call and email and provide instructions or suggest resources on how to treat head lice infestation. Parent/guardian may choose to come pick up child and begin treatment, or may prefer child return to class. If parent/guardian is unavailable, send the child back to class.
  • Screen any siblings in the building for lice, and notify the school nurse in the building where the sibling attends school so the sibling can be checked.
  • Notify the custodian to specifically vacuum any carpeted areas in the classroom.
  • Notify the teacher to bag up any stuffed animals and/or pillows in the classroom.
  • The school nurse will consult with the parent/guardian regarding treatment and progress within 7 days of a positive identification of head lice and then recheck the student in 14 days.
  • Students may return to school the day after treatment has begun.
  • Lice infestations will be managed discreetly so that students are not ostracized, isolated, humiliated, or psychologically traumatized.

Teacher Responsibility

  1. Be alert to signs of potential lice infestation in the classroom and send any students suspected to have head lice to the health room. Signs and symptoms of head lice infection may include: Abnormal itching of the head and scalp
    • A tickling feeling of something moving on the head or in the hair
    • The detection of live lice
    • Nits (lice eggs) or empty cases from hatched lice attached to hairs
    • Sore or scratch marks on a student’s head caused by scratching, or nits
    • Irritability and trouble sleeping (Head lice are most active in the dark).
  2. Discourage close head contact in your classroom. Separate coats by hanging on the back of individual chairs during times of suspected lice infestation. 

 Office Responsibility

  1. Be trained regarding lice identification and screening procedures by the school nurse
  2. Protect the confidentiality of students and their families.
  3. Be aware of parent/guardian’s responsibility.

Parent/Guardian Responsibility

  • Contact the school nurse if you know or suspect that your child has lice. The school nurse is a resource to answer your questions and provide information on how to remove and prevent head lice.
  • Treat your child and follow the “Lice Aren’t Nice” pamphlet instructions to control transmission in the home.
  • Examine all household members and treat anyone infested.
  • Notify the school nurse when the child has received treatment for head lice.
  • Inform family and friends so they can check their children.
  • Disinfect clothing and bedding by machine washing and drying using the hot cycle.
  • Soak brushes, combs and hair clips in hot water above 120 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Vacuum all rugs, carpet, furniture, car, car seats and stroller. Discard the vacuum bag. If using a bagless vacuum, securely bag vacuum contents immediately after vacuuming and place in the trash.

The use of environmental sprays is NOT recommended due to their toxicity. Be sure to follow the instructions on any lice treatment shampoos, so your child & family are not over treated.

The Issaquah School District is committed to following current evidence-based practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control. This means some strategies used in the past are outdated will not be used anymore. These strategies include:

  • Routine or periodic classroom and school-wide screenings for the presence of head lice-data shows this is a labor- intensive task, with little return.
  • Sending home classroom letters –this is a potential violation of patient confidentiality
  • Immediately sending home a student with head lice –this is denying a student access to their education. Head lice are not a health hazard and are not responsible for the spread of any disease.