Lice Facts

Head Lice Awareness

Any time children come together, particularly at the start of the school year or any social grouping like Girl/Cub Scouts, Brownies or Little League, head lice cases commonly increase. Please encourage your child not to share or trade personal items such as hats, combs, brushes, headbands, barrettes, as well as helmets or headphones with foam ear protectors.  Checking your child’s head regularly should become a standard hygiene practice.

Direct, physical, head-to-head contact is the usual method of transmission. Lice do not jump, fly or swim. They are, however, good crawlers. Check your child’s head weekly for lice and/or nits (eggs). Mature lice, which are no bigger than a sesame seed, avoid light and are hard to see. Lice eggs or “nits” are usually found close to the scalp – usually within ¼ inch. They appear as tiny whitish ovals that are “glued” to the hair shaft. They cannot be flicked away easily, as dandruff can. Head lice do not transmit disease and are not a serious medical condition. They cannot survive on your pets. If you find head lice on your child, please notify the school and keep him or her home until properly treated. Continue to examine all family members for 3 weeks and treat if live lice or nits close to the scalp are found.  Check Regularly – Treat Quickly.

The Andover School District is committed to maximizing students’ academic performance and physical wellbeing in a healthy and safe environment. The District recognizes that head lice infestations do not pose a health hazard, are not a sign of uncleanliness, and are not responsible for the spread of any disease. However, archaic policies cause many unnecessary absences from school with potential negative effects on academic performance. Misinformation about head lice causes anxiety for parents and school staff.

The Academy of Pediatrics as well as the NH Department of Education do NOT support a no-nit policy or mass screenings.  AEMS has chosen to mirror our policy on this evidence based practice.  Please review the following most recently asked questions and rationales.

Should the student be excluded from school with live head lice or nits?
No. Guidelines: Evidence-based practices should be used in recommending treatment of this condition. Verbal and written instructions for treatment options should be given to the family of the student by the school nurse. The student should be allowed to remain in the classroom that day if comfortable and return to school the following day. School staff need to ensure student confidentiality is maintained and should not segregate or in any way embarrass the child. There is no research data that demonstrates that enforced exclusion policies are effective in reducing the transmission of lice.

Rationale: The management of pediculosis should proceed so as to not disrupt the education process. If a staff member suspects a student has head lice, they will discretely report this to the school nurse or principal. Following an assessment by the school nurse during a non-academic time period, if further action is necessary, the nurse will contact the child’s parent or guardian either by telephone or by a note sent home with the child at the end of the school day.

Are no-nit policies or mass screenings recommended for schools?

No. Guidelines: There is consensus that no-nit policies are inappropriate in a school setting, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of School Nurses, the CDC, and the NH Department of Health and Human Services. School–wide screenings and “no-nit” policies are strongly discouraged. Mass screening for live lice has not been proven to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in a school community over time. Manual removal of nits after treatment with a pediculcide is not necessary to prevent spread. (American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Pediculosis 2002, updated in 2009). Education of parents in identifying and managing head lice is the most helpful. We urge school districts to ensure that children do not miss class unnecessarily or encounter embarrassment and isolation, especially if they suffer from repeated head lice infestations. Parents should be encouraged to check their children’s heads for lice if the child is symptomatic and when close contacts have head lice.

Rationale: “No nit” policies contribute to the stigma created around lice. This over-emphasis on case-finding can lead to unproductive use of time by school staff and parents, missed classes, unnecessary absences, and parents missing work. Past screening and exclusion practices in schools have contributed to myths and stigma about lice, which are not supported by the current research, and have resulted in discrimination and unnecessary lost time from school. The importance of cooperation and open communication between families and schools is the most effective method of control!

For more information regarding head lice or its treatment, please feel free to

contact the school health office or your local health department. 

Andrew Tyler,
Dec 3, 2015, 7:48 AM