WCVB- Boston Channel
BOSTON —If you’ve ever had a child in school, you’ve heard about head lice. Maybe someone in your family has had a case of those pesky creatures.
But one expert says lice infestation is no big deal. And students shouldn’t miss even one day of school because of it.
Noreen Cavanaugh of Lice Doctors said all it takes is olive oil, a special comb and persistence to get rid of lice– parasitic bugs that live and breed on the head, most often in children.
“Olive oil smothers the adult head lice,” said Cavanaugh.
Lice do not spread disease and have nothing to do with bad hygiene. But some schools have no-lice policies. When her 10-year-old got head lice, Amy Vergne reported it to the Newton schools. She was told her daughter had to stay home until the lice were gone.
“I can understand people that don’t want to say it. But then you have your child getting it because someone else didn’t say it, and it just goes on,” said Vergne.
But parasitologist Richard Pollack says no student should miss a day of school because he or she has head lice.
“Schools get hysterical. There’s this yuck factor associated with it, this emotional baggage. Head lice doesn’t cause disease in kids, it’s not that readily transmitted. It requires direct head to head contact, usually prolonged contact,” said Pollack.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of School Nurses ALL agree that in-school transmission is rare and children with head lice or nits should not be excluded from school.
It is important to treat head lice. Over-the-counter products can work. But some contain pesticides which can irritate the scalp. Sometimes the problem goes away by just using a special comb.
But Pollack said beware of over-treatment and misdiagnosis.
“What’s needed is the expertise to know it’s a louse. You need the visual acuity,” said said Pollack.
Pollack’s Harvard School of Public Health study screened more than 10,000 schoolchildren who were said to have lice. A large number did not have them.
“They were misidentified; they were bits of dandruff and debris,” he said.
“This is not a health issue. But when you’re the parent and you have a child that has lice, this can be very upsetting,” said Cavanaugh.
Every school has a different policy when it comes to head lice. So check with your district’s school nurse.