The very thought of lice in your children's hair is enough to make most people grimace. But now experts are saying it's most likely not as bad as you might think. Tiny creepy-crawlies that make your head itch is not an attractive prospect by anyone's standards, but the anxiety about lice felt by children, parents, and school administrators may have worse repercussions.
When the American Academy of Pediatricians speak up, saying there's a high rate of anxiety about lice, then maybe it's time to consider the idea that although an itching head is no fun, aside from that, lice cause no harm. It's the "eww, that's gross!" factor that's hard to get over.
Lice is one of those words that can cause a small but real ripple of panic in parents and school officials, and part of the problem may be frequent cases of misdiagnosis. The New York Times cites one study that found 2/3rds of 600 would-be lice samples submitted by parents, teachers, school nurses, and doctors, were not actually lice! They were "dandruff, scabs, dirt, plugs of skin cells, hair spray droplets, other insects or eggs that were no longer viable or already hatched."
But parents and administrators may think "why take a chance?" One reason you want to be sure is that the chemical insecticides used to treat lice infestations have varying degrees of effectiveness, and in some cases may cause other health issues. Lindane, for example, is an older but still used lice treatment that is now banned in California because it can cause seizures.
Another reason to make sure the diagnosis is correct is children, who in many cases may have something as simple as dandruff, are quarantined at home away from their friends, classmates and studies. And in many cases children are not legally allowed to attend school until they can prove they don't have any lice (or other "nits"). The Academy of Pediatricians now recommends that school districts abandon the "no nit" policy that requires students to stay out of school if they are diagnosed with lice. They go on to say that "routine classroom or school-wide screening should be discouraged."
Perhaps if parents repeat to themselves the idea that "lice itch, that's all," it will help combat the visceral reaction so many of us have about insects--and even worse, insects biting our children! Have you ever had to deal with lice?
Avoiding Lice Tip:
Teach your children to avoid sharing personal items that may transmit lice, such as hats, headphones, scarves and brushes.
Parents, Relax. Don’t Keep Them From School. It’s Just Lice.
Managing presumed head louse infestations at home