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Head lice -- and school policies -- can present problems

January 31, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(The Los Angeles Times )

Fewer things provoke more disgust (even though they present no public health threat) than head lice. More and more parents are discovering this tiny beast, which spreads from head-to-head contact, in young children’s hair.

Columnist Nicole Brochu of the Sun Sentinel in South Florida can sympathize. Her children have had head lice four times in five years -- enough to make her question the no-nit policy embraced by as many as 82% of schools nationwide.

She writes: "Here's the real head-scratcher: Despite the accepted scientific fact that lice are not a health threat, school systems across the country reject the sound advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics by barring any child from attending school if they have even a single nit on their head. This despite repeated evidence that shows only a small number of students with nits are actually infested. Those who are infested often don't scratch and don't attract the attention of school officials without regular screenings; so the risk of spread is left untouched."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says head lice don't spread disease, pesky as they can be to itchy scalps. Here are some FAQs about head lice and treatment options from the CDC.

Brochu's suggested remedy? Schools should screen children for head lice -- instead of kicking them out.

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