The common cold is the only communicable health problem that beats out lice at the school age, according to MayoClinic.com. The small insects lay eggs, called nits, on the hair shaft to continue the population in the hair. The insects travel from one head to the next through direct contact with another person’s hair or things that have touched the hair, such as brushes, scarves and hair clips. School prevention methods keep lice infestations to a minimum.
Policies that outline when students with lice may return to school help reduce the spread. Schools often require that students stay home until all live lice and nits are gone from the hair. A trained staff member often must inspect the child’s hair before she returns to class. The policy should also outline details like the frequency of screenings, handling a student who has lice and the cleanup procedures after lice is identified. Consistency in the policy helps limit the spread of lice to other students.
Regular screenings in the school allow staff members to detect a potential lice outbreak early. The number of screenings is a matter of preference for each school, but checking after students return from breaks is a good rule of thumb. Students are more likely to sleep over at a friend or relative’s house during break, increasing their chances for getting lice. Other schools might only screen if a case of head lice is reported in one of the students. Staff members handling the screenings should review what to look for to identify lice.
A packet of information about head lice keeps parents informed. Reminding parents to screen their own children and keep them home if lice are found may help reduce the number of lice cases in the school. If a student does have lice, send a notification home to all parents so they can keep an eye on their own children.
The organization and management of the classroom also helps prevent the spread of lice. Separate lockers or cubbies for each child’s coat and other belongings prevents spreading lice. Coats and hats in particular should stay separated. Any classroom items worn on the head should be disinfected between uses by different children.
If a case of lice is identified, all floor surfaces in the classroom should be vacuumed. Any soft materials that can go in the washing machine should be washed in hot water. Other soft toys can be bagged for two weeks to get rid of the lice infestation.
Educating the kids about lice helps prevent spreading. Remind kids not to share their belongings, especially hair decorations, hats and other items worn on or near the head. Remind them to take home items like towels, mats and head gear for washing on a regular basis.