One grade school in Hawaii has made great strides in reducing the spread of head lice among students using a surprisingly sensible strategy—education and support. The state’s department of education and health changed its policy from a “no nits” mandate that children with lice must stay home from school until nit-free to allowing students to stay in school while receiving treatment.
Some schools have isolated students with lice, exacerbating the stigma and shame. According to KHON TV Channel 2 in Honolulu, Palolo Elementary School had struggled with head lice for years. Most expected the problem to get worse when the state allowed kids with lice to stay in school. Instead, lice infestations are on the decline as the school has taken steps to inform families about “ukus,” as lice are called in Hawaii, and to reduce the stigma associated with head lice.
Instead of separating children, the school educates them. “We have to counsel them, talk to them that they should go back to class,” Principal Holly Kiyonaga said. School officials have also conducted proactive outreach to students and their families. The staff tries to not call too much attention to cases of head lice by sending students to get checked during breaks.
Teachers and health aides also counsel the students on how to respond when their friends and classmates might be dealing with lice. Because the school has multiple cultures in its student body, diversity and acceptance are always part of the curriculum. “That’s all a part of accepting each other and being accepting of differences. That’s part of our core values. That’s part of teaching students,” said Kiyonaga.
Education and communication among parents and children can go a long way to reducing head lice infestations and preventing children from contracting it. When children, parents, and schools work together to help prevent and treat lice, the Palolo experience shows; lice infestations decline.
Palolo health aide Sherry Tanna said, “the best thing we should do is talk to our children, and educate them, and let them know personal space is good. Tell them about how it’s transferred. Tell them to protect themselves.” Teaching children to avoid head-to-head contact, to avoid sharing hair accessories and clothing, and to keep their hair short or pulled-back can go a long way in preventing cases of head lice.
Cases of head lice are on the rise in many parts of the United States and Canada as the most popular lice removal products are increasingly ineffective. Medical researchers have noted that lice are developing immunity to pyrethroids, the class of insecticides used in the most common over-the-counter lice products. The most recent study, published in 2016 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, found that 98 percent of lice in 48 U.S. states carry a genetic resistance to pyrethroids.
There is also a line of new products and services available that stop head lice in their tracks without the use of insecticides. Lice Clinics of America has pioneered new treatments that include a clinic-based service using a medical device that is clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs in about an hour. The same company has developed lice removal and prevention products that use non-toxic gels that are easy to apply and are guaranteed to kill and prevent lice when used as directed. For more information, visit www.liceclinicsofamerica.com.