So Now, It's Advised That Kids With Lice Should Stay In School

Sarah Kester
Little girl with pigtails
Unsplash | Tim Mossholder

When we were kids, getting lice was the worst. There’s nothing fun about having bugs crawl and lay eggs on your scalp.  

The ONLY okay part about it was that you got to stay home from school until you were lice-free. But now, according to new guidelines, it’s advised that kids with lice should actually stay in school.

This startling advice came from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

Little girl learning at home
Unsplash | Carl Jorgensen

In a research paper, they found the school policy of sending kids home with lice or nits to be "outdated." Instead of the bugs causing harm, the real danger is the damage caused by social exclusion.

For example, they believe that excluding kids with lice from school is actually contributing to the stigma that those with lice have bad hygiene or come from low-income families. 

Meredith shaving her head
Giphy | The Office

Just consider Meredith from The Office for a moment. Her character is known for being, well, raunchy, dirty, and from a low-income background. 

Even her son was judged for being a little rough around the edges.

Meredith and her son

Michael Scott once joked that the kid was never going to college and everyone quietly agreed. Then, no one was surprised when it was discovered that her son had grown up to become a male stripper.

So when Pam brought lice into the office, everyone assumed that it was actually Meredith. 

Girl covering face
Unsplash | Caleb Woods

The AAP's point is that excluding children with lice from school opens them up to scrutiny from their classmates who may look at them as "dirty."

“School exclusion of children or adolescents with nits alone would have resulted in many of these children or adolescents missing school unnecessarily," the health organization stated.

Alexis freaking out about lice
Giphy | CBC

"In addition, head lice infestations have been shown to have low contagion in classrooms."

“No healthy child or adolescent should be excluded from school or allowed to miss school time because of head lice or nits," they continued.

Sad girl covering face
Unsplash | Joseph Gonzalez

There are many myths about lice, including how they can jump from head to head. The truth is that they crawl.

The AAP wants medical providers to "educate school communities that no-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned."

Kids in school
Unsplash | Kenny Eliason

The reason? "Such policies would have negative consequences for children’s or adolescents’ academic progress." It can take weeks to get rid of lice. That's a lot of missed school.

They also wrote that the current policies on lice may violate a child's "civil rights, and stigmatize head lice as a public health hazard."

Parent treating lice

The AAP continued on, specifying that “lice are neither a health hazard nor a sign of poor hygiene and are not responsible for the spread of any disease."  

“Despite this knowledge, there is significant stigma resulting from head lice infestations in high-income countries."

Sad child looking through fence
Unsplash | Tadeusz Lakota

Social exclusion causes more harm than lice ever could. This only hinders the children and "results in children and adolescents being ostracized from their schools, friends, and other social events."

In addition to this, "head lice can be psychologically stressful to the affected individual.”

Little girl's hair
Unsplash | Nina Strehl

So, what should be done? School policies have to change first, of course. But if your child has lice, there are many new medications that work extremely fast.

You also want to be kind, and supportive, and treat your child normally.

Jimmy Fallon hugging daughter
Giphy | The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

They're probably scared and don't want to feel like the "odd one out." So be sure to reassure them that everything is okay and then work to treat the problem.