Should Children Miss School Because of Lice?

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines regarding lice to a “do not exclude” position. They recommend that schools do not send children found with lice home from school. The National Association of School Nurses agreed and changed their position in 2011. According to this organization, children found to have lice should be sent back to the classroom.


    The nurse should then contact the parent and discuss treatment.

    Since this time, some schools around the country have changed their policy. Prior to 2010, when a child was found to have lice, parents were called and asked to come pick up their child. Parents were expected to treat their child that day. Treatment includes a special shampoo, washing infected clothing, sheets and towels in hot water and combing the hair to remove any nits. The nurse would then check your child upon return to school and if lice were found, the parents would need to once pick up their child from school. Many schools had, or have, a “no-nit” policy, which means if a child has even one nit, the name for the eggs which attach to the hair shaft, the child cannot return to school.

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    The lice and no-nit policies can sometimes cause a child to miss several days of school. It can cause hardship on families, with parents needing to miss work, even though their child is otherwise healthy. And treatment for lice can be expensive. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses both believe it is more important for a child to be in school, learning. They also indicate that lice do not cause a health hazard, are not easily transferred from one child to another and are not contagious. Lice are not a sign of poor hygiene. They believe that lice are not a reason to miss school.


    Instead, parents should check their child’s hair on a weekly basis, especially after a sleep-over or play date. When this is done, lice are found and treated before they have a chance to lay eggs and spread throughout a child’s head.  By the time schools locate lice and send a child home, they probably had the lice on their head for at least a month.


    Not everyone agrees with this policy. Many parents are upset that children will remain in school with lice and fear that this change of policy will help spread lice from child to child.  They understand that getting rid of the lice is a lot of work and worry that without a no-nit policy, they will be going through the process more often. But, experts believe, even though the thought of lice walking around your child’s head is disgusting, there is no evidence that sending children home from school prevents the spread of lice and insist that the bugs do not carry disease and can be controlled with weekly monitoring.




Published On: August 20, 2014