Thursday, September 6, 2012

Head Lice & The School Nurse

Pediculosis and The School Nurse

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Hopefully Helpful School Nurse Tip:  As a school nurse, it is just a matter of time before you are introduced to head lice. Having the most reliable information will help you offer accurate healthcare advice and educate your students, staff, and parents.  

 “The school nurse plays an integral role in providing education related to treatment and environmental recommendations for families affected by head lice.” (Bultas & Smith, 2022) Yet school nurses struggle with what their role in this very sensitive issue. As the leader who bridges health care and education, the registered professional school nurse… advocates for evidence-based head lice management strategies that eliminate exclusionary practices and promote positive student outcomes, including reduced absenteeism. (NASN, 2020)

What is Head Lice? 

Head lice are parasitic insects found commonly on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice have a 3 stage life cycle: egg (nits), nymph, and adult.  The adult louse lives off the blood of a human head. This louse cannot survive without blood for more 1-2 days.  
Although head lice can be a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease. They also don't discriminate and have nothing to do with the cleanliness of a family, student, or classroom.  Lice enjoy clean hair just as much as dirty hair. Lice have been found on the heads of those who live in the out in the country and those who live in the big city.
Though head lice may be a nuisance, they don't cause serious illness or carry any diseases. Head lice can be treated at home, but it's important to check with the doctor first.

What are common signs / symptoms of head lice?

  • itchy scalp
  • feeling like something is moving in the hair or on the scalp
  • trouble sleeping because lice are moving around more when it is dark
  • occasionally sores occur on the head from scratching

Important head lice facts to remember

  • Head lice cannot jump
  • Head lice cannot fly
  • Head lice cannot hop
  • Head lice can only crawl 

How are lice spread? 

  • Close contact
  • Leaning into close and/or rubbing heads together
  • Sharing combs/brushes/picks
  • Sharing head phones, hats, scarves
  • Borrowing blankets, pillows, masks (face masks and Halloween masks)
  • Laying on a surface recently in contact with someone who has lice

  • Don't screen entire classrooms or grade levels for lice
  • Don't exclude from school for nits or even live lice
  • Don't send home school wide or class wide lice notifications 

Head Lice Do's

  • Do provide privacy and head checks as needed
  • Do notify the student and parent as soon as possible if live lice or nits are found
  • Do provide accurate treatment options to the parents
  • Do allow the parents to pick up their student early to begin treatment (but don't require it)

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