While just uttering the word “lice” can invoke a psychosomatic head scratch, experts are recommending that we learn to keep calm when confronted with a head lice outbreak. In recent years both the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that schools abandon so-called “no-nit” policies, which ban children with head lice from attending school until they are free of lice and eggs (nits).
This is important because with lice now resistant to the most common anti-lice pesticide products, outbreaks may become more common and potentially disruptive for schools and families. The stress and inconvenience of treating head lice is bad enough without missing class time and the associated educational impact. Traditional “nit picking” can take weeks before victory can be claimed.
There are 6-12 million cases of head lice each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With head lice now resistant to many OTC products, the problem for parents, children and schools may get worse before it gets better. Fortunately, new technology is now available that makes getting rid of head lice far faster, easier and more safely than was previously possible.
“Most cases of head lice are acquired outside of school,” according to the AAP. The AAP recommends that an otherwise healthy child should not be sent home from school because of head lice or nits. The organization encourages pediatricians to educate schools and communities that no-nit policies are unjust and should be abandoned. Children can finish the school day, be treated, and return to school.
When a family member is diagnosed with head lice, the AAP recommends that all household members should be checked. However, the drastic household cleanup recommended by well-meaning bloggers is not really necessary, the organization says. Washing linens and cleaning hair care products that have been in contact with the family member with lice should be sufficient.
“In the past, many schools with ‘no-nit’ policies expended innumerable hours and resources in attempts to eradicate head lice infestations,” the NASN said. “Studies have shown that control measures such as, mass screenings for nits, have not been shown to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in a school community, nor have they shown to be cost-effective.”
“Evidence-based strategies include abandoning ‘no-nit’ school policies, allowing children to remain in class and participate in school-sponsored activities when live lice or nits (the eggs of head lice) are found on their heads, notifying parents/caregivers at the end of the school day when findings indicate the presence of a head lice infestation, and educating parents/caregivers about evidence-based treatment options.”
The good news is that scientists have been at work on the head lice treatment front, and have developed a new medical device-based approach that kills lice and eggs through dehydration in about an hour, eliminating the need for weeks of combing and inspecting children’s heads, with fingers crossed.
The device, called AirAllé, uses carefully applied warm air to effectively dehydrate lice in a clinical setting. Treatment is delivered by certified technicians and is available exclusively at Lice Clinics of America treatment centers throughout the United States and world. The AirAllé, device has been cleared by the FDA and was found in trials to kill live lice and 99.2 percent of eggs.
Most parents and teachers would of course prefer that lice go away entirely. That’s not likely to happen. However, it is now possible to treat head lice faster and more effectively than ever before.