Not in a good way.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued new rules regarding the treatment of this pest, which might be a cause of relief to some parents and distress to others.
The pediatricians’ group found the pest has become resistant to some forms of treatment, possibly making it even harder for parents to rid their children of the insect. But the AAP remained committed to its position that schools should not ban children from attending class and should abandon their “no-nit” policies.
With school age children the hardest hit, according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting an estimated 6 to 12 million cases of head lice a year in the US, mostly among children 3 to 12 years old, should they all be forced from school? Over the course of their schooling, your kids will likely come face to face with this tiny but terror-inducing critter, and while it’s a lousy situation, should it affect their education?
The newly released guidelines also emphasize the rarity of transmission through indirect means such as brushes or hats. Lice are typically contracted through direct head to head contact. And while the sesame-size pests are certainly a nuisance, they aren’t contagious. They’re not even a health hazard. They don’t spread disease, and they aren’t a sign of poor hygiene.
But the pests are hard to spot and crawl pretty darn fast, which is how they travel from head to head. I know because my daughter brought some uninvited guests home from school one day. This was after the school was declared lice free.
I never even noticed her hair was crawling with them, mostly because I don’t typically stare at her scalp but also because lice are practically the same color as human hair, no matter what the shade. I’m convinced lice share genetic material with chameleons. My hairdresser found them, thankfully, and counseled me on how to treat them, which turned out to be the same as the ones offered by the AAP this week.
Both my hairdresser and the AAP advocate treatment with over-the-counter products such as Rid or Nix, which contain pesticides to kill the live lice. The directions call for a follow-up treatment after 7 to 10 days, which is advice best headed since any remaining eggs will hatch in that time and will require another dose to kill them off.
The AAP and my hairdresser differ in the importance of using a fine-tooth “nit comb.” The AAP merely suggests using it, but my hairdresser (and the instructions on the lice “shampoo” box) insists on it.
Here’s how it’s done: apply a generous amount of lice “shampoo,” to the hair, section the head with hair clips and run the little Barbie brush through each partition from the scalp to the ends. Then rinse or wipe the comb off on a paper towel (thereby removing any lice and eggs, known as nits). Repeat for the next three hours until all of the hair has been combed through with the miniscule comb. After that, you should be lice free. But just in case you’re not, make sure you reapply the treatment in 7 to 10 days to get every last louse.
If that doesn’t work the AAP suggests contacting your pediatrician for possible prescription medications. Or you could contact a lice lady. I believe the proper term is professional nit-picker. A crop has popped up in recent years to help families deal with the scourge.
The scourge, though, isn’t as scourgy as commonly thought. The AAP guidelines highlight the pest cannot survive without a host for more than a day. Lice need the blood and warmer temperature of the human body to live. So while ridding your hair and home from the vermin is essential, the group notes excessive cleaning measures are unnecessary. They simply advise washing household items such as pillow cases that have come in contact with the infested head in the 48 hours preceding treatment. Those items that can’t be washed such as stuffed animals should be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks to ensure any surviving eggs, which may hatch in the bag have expired before removing the contents. That’s it.
Then you should be free to send them off to school. Although your school might not agree. Verona still has a no-nit policy, but if you are lucky enough to live in Millburn, which repealed its no-nit policy in 2008, you can send them in, nit or no nit.
Would you send your kid? Or is a no no-nit policy a nit-wit policy?
(Photo: Flickr: Eran Finkle)