Part 6: My Kid Got Lice From School
“The CDC is a medical institution and not a social or financial institution.” - Nurse Kevin
First and foremost, I agree and disagree with the CDC’s suggestion that children, “with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school.” Keep in mind that the CDC makes suggestions that are medically based and not financially or emotionally based. Schools and families, “spend about one billion dollars a year” treating head lice. Some of these families in less fortunate communities (or less fortunate families in fortunate communities) cannot afford the treatments and many of the treatments just don’t work. Notice how many 1-star reviews this product received.
Keeping children in school is important. That’s why school districts all over America have school nurses. Excusing children from school for conditions that are not a threat to the safety and health of the child and the other children is not the responsibility of the CDC. It’s the responsibility of the districts and...more so...the parents. Talking about missed school days: in my experience, it’s the children with persistent head lice that show up to school each and every day. It’s the children who get lice once-in-their-life whose guardians keep their children home. Missed School. Missed Work. Embarrassing trip to the Pharmacy. Missed family time to treat and clean. None of these aspects are considered by the CDC. Why? Like I said, “The CDC is a medical institution and not a social or financial institution.”
I am not saying that these children have caught lice at school. But I am not discounting the possibility that they caught lice at school. The CDC has put “school” on the top of their list as “The most common way to get head lice is by head-to-head contact with a person who already has head lice. Such contact can be common among children during play at: school…” Some sources report that lice cases are ironically more common during the warmer months that the cooler ones (more common in the summer than during the school year). Still others announce that the fall is “lice season.” Never mind what we think, mammas and daddies fully and wholeheartedly believe that their children get lice from school. Not to be sarcastic, but we school staff don’t manufacture lice in the school secret lab and covertly sprinkle the little critters on some unsuspecting 4th grader’s head...well...maybe I am being a little sarcastic.
The CDC has a lot of information on head lice and, like these articles Go See The Nurse has provided, there is plenty of information on the Internet about head lice. When I speak to a concerned parent about their child’s head lice, they are clear in their belief that the child acquire the bugs from school yet they are vague in their understanding of how to get rid of the head lice. The next morning when I check the child’s head to ensure there are no live bugs, the parent feels that the Nix or Rid treatment they did last evening is enough and that they are done. It’s at this time where teaching is vital to ensure the parent doesn't call you in 30 days and reports, “My kid got lice from school! AGAIN!”
My buddy calls me one day, “My girls have lice! What do I do?” He has four beautiful little elementary-aged girls. The difference between his girls and the little girls at my elementary schools is that his girls don’t go to a school building. They are home-schooled.
Where, how, when their child got lice is not the issue here. Nonetheless, the parent will likely want to linger on this topic. Though you, as the school nurse, may feel under-fire from these parents, you will want to remind them that you are on their side. Their anger and accusing tone is not necessarily “pointing” out your failure; they want to feel that their child is clean and could never have brought the lice into the school. They want to know that it was some other, little, dirty child that you, as the school nurse, need to find and clean up. They are embarrassed and emotional...as you and I would be if we had a bunch of bugs running around on either our or our children’s hair. Say it ain’t so.
One upset mother called me from one of my schools at the end of the day, “[Female Student] has lice and I want to know if there is anyone else in her classroom that has lice.” She added, “And I am recording this phone call.”
Needless to say, I just read the district’s policy to the mother, offered a home visit and ended the call. She likely would have been more upset to learn she was the only case that school year at that particular school and it was already late October.
I don’t think this mother was mad at me; I think she was embarrassed and wanted to know that other children has lice and that her child “caught” the lice. Truth be known: everyone who has lice caught lice. No one “just has lice.”
What we school nurses need to help these parents understand is NOT where their child got the head lice but:
Ways Head Lice Spread
How to Eradicate Head Lice
How to Make Dog-On Sure their Child doesn’t have a Reinfestation
RID VS NIX
RID contains pyrethrum and NIX contains permethrin. But what does that mean? Is one better than the other at killing lice and what about all those eggs?
THE BATTLE PLAN
You’ve found lice on a head in your home. WHAT THE HECK!? Okay, don’t sweat. You’ve got this. Read this LICE BATTLE PLAN and get them bugs gone!!
ALL ABOUT LICE
Learn more about lice. You have an 2-3% chance of lice coming into your home this year. The more you know about these pests the better prepared you’ll be.