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Q&A: More lenient lice policies bug some parents

By Jennifer C. Kerr

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 8 2013 12:29 p.m. MST

"I'm appalled. I am just so disgusted," says Theresa Rice, whose 8-year-old daughter, Jenna, has come home from her Hamilton County, Tenn., school with lice three times since August.

"It's just a terrible headache to have to deal with lice," says Rice. To pick out the tiny nits and lice from Jenna's long blond hair is a four-hour process. Add to that all the laundry and cleaning — it's exhausting, she says. Rice had to bag up her daughter's treasured stuffed animals, which remained sealed for weeks even after Jenna was lice-free.

Jenna's school implemented a new policy in the past year that allows children with untreated lice to go home at the end of the day, be treated and then return to school. The policy, the district said, complies with the guidelines of both the Tennessee Department of Education and the CDC.

Q: WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

A: The National Pediculosis Association in Massachusetts opposes relaxing bans on lice and says the updated policies spread the bugs. Pediculosis means infestation of lice.

"The new lice policy throws parental values for wellness and children's health under the bus," says Deborah Altschuler, head of the Newton-based group. "It fosters complacency about head lice by minimizing its importance as a communicable parasitic disease."

The association says lice treatment shampoos are pesticides that are not safe for children and not 100 percent effective. The group instead urges parents to screen regularly and use a special comb to manually remove lice and nits from a child's hair.

The CDC says the nits are "very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people" — and many schools have dropped their no-nit policies. But supporters of no-nit rules, such as the National Pediculosis Association, say the eggs will hatch new lice and need to be removed before a child is considered lice-free.

Online

Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/index.html

National Pediculosis Association: http://www.headlice.org/

National Association of School Nurses: http://bit.ly/y8IUdg

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