What to Know
- This is the first new update to head lice guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 7 years
- The guidance says children with head lice should not be excluded from school, noting that sending them home or requiring them to stay home could violate civil rights and impact academic progress
- The key points are that infestations are neither a health hazard nor a sign of poor hygiene
The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated guidance on head lice for the first time since 2015.
One of the key points is that infestations are neither a health hazard nor a sign of poor hygiene but can result in significant stigma and psychological stress.
Dallas pediatrician Dr. Marciel Oquendo reiterates that head lice isn't a health hazard or a result of poor hygiene.
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The AAP states that head lice screening programs in schools have not been proven to have a significant effect are not cost-effective, and may stigmatize children suspected of having head lice.
It also says no healthy child or teen should be excluded from school or allowed to miss school time because of head lice or nits.
Medical providers should educate school communities that policies that require students to be rid of lice or lice eggs before returning to school be abandoned because these policies would have negative consequences for a student's academic progress, may violate their civil rights, and stigmatize head lice as a public health hazard.
He believes while students should not be sent home or isolated, parents should be notified and decide, after consulting with their child's pediatrician, how to proceed.
"Even though lice is a huge inconvenience for a lot of people, it doesn't pose a health risk the same way COVID or influenza would," said Dr. Oquendo.
At the Royal Treatment Center in Hurst, owner Marietta Klein says screenings do help detect cases before those cases become worse and the affected child suffers from bullying.
"The stigma that kids hold is they sometimes, if they have a severe case of head lice and it's not addressed, they're bullied," said Klein.
Her advice for parents is that they do their homework now.
"Since COVID, people just aren't aware that it is out there but the cases are worse than they've ever been," said Klein.
The AAP recommends treatments that are safe and age-appropriate, should rapidly rid the individual of live lice and nits, and should be easy to use and affordable.