If the school recently sent out word that a student in your child’s class has lice, you may be filled with dread. You don’t want your child to get the pests—it means a lot of extra work for you. You’ll be tasked with treating the infestation and may be asked to keep your child home for a few days, which can throw off your plans for work or appointments.
However, lice are not worth panicking over. Many schools and parents overreact to the news that lice has been found on a student—it’s not that big of a deal. The following facts can keep you calm while you and other parents deal with this “crisis.”
1. Lice Aren’t Dangerous
Lice are pests, nothing more. They may make your child’s scalp itch a little, but lice do not carry diseases or cause health problems unless your child is allergic to them, which is rare. If your child does end up getting lice, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t panic.
2. Lice Is Common
Getting lice is a common childhood risk. If your child is making friends and playing with other children, chances are your child may eventually get a case of lice before growing up. Many children do get lice at some point, just like most children get scraped knees and colds. Take the lice as a sign that your child is having a normal childhood.
Don’t believe myths that lice are more common on children who are dirty or unhygienic. Lice are equal-opportunity parasites: they take whatever human head they can find. If your child gets lice, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed to wash your child’s hair enough.
3. Lice Infestations Are Old News
By the time a case of lice is discovered, the lice have often been there for about a month already. In that time, nothing bad happened, and it’s possible that the lice never passed to anyone else. If your child has lice, know that it’s nothing to react strongly to; the lice have already been living on your child’s head for a while with no adverse effects.
4. Lice Don’t Spread Easily
Even if the lice have been on a student in your child’s classroom for a while, that doesn’t mean your child will be affected. Lice do not jump between people and cannot survive off a human head for very long. While it’s possible that lice can spread between children through sharing hats and combs, it’s not very probable.
Usually, the only way your child can get lice is by putting his or her head next to or against the infested child’s head for a few minutes, letting the lice crawl over. If your child is not good friends with the infested child, it’s not likely that the two would play in such close quarters.
If you worry that someone in the classroom has lice, tell your children to be careful about touching heads with other children. If your child has long hair, you can also minimize his or her risk by tying it up in a ponytail or braiding it to get it out of the way of crawling lice. No matter what, though, your child’s risk is still small—and if he or she does get lice, remember, it’s still highly treatable and isn’t dangerous.
5. Lice Is Often Misdiagnosed
If someone other than a medical professional looks for lice on a child’s scalp, it’s likely that he or she might incorrectly diagnose the problem. If your child has dandruff or was playing outside and got sand in his or her hair, it could look like lice to the untrained eye.
If a teacher thinks that a child has lice, maybe the child does. However, it’s not a sure thing—take a nurse’s opinion on the subject more seriously.
6. Children Don’t Need to Miss School for Lice
Because lice doesn’t spread easily, isn’t dangerous, has been around for a while, and is very common, children do not need to miss school for lice. If the school nurse does a lice check and finds lice on your child’s head, your child should be able to remain in school until the end of the day and go back the next day.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get rid of the lice. Definitely find a treatment that works for your child, but your child poses little risk to other children, especially compared to the downsides of your child missing school for several days.
If the school gives you trouble about sending your child to class, you have science on your side. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that children with lice and nits should go to school. Get a doctor on your side if the school is being particularly stubborn. Your child shouldn’t have to miss class for lice.
If you need help correctly diagnosing and treating lice, contact Heartland Healthy Heads. We’re trained lice treatment professionals that can take care of the problem without any fuss.