How to manage head lice in schools
Head lice infestations are common in the school community, especially in younger students. But how do we manage the problem? The reality is that the responsibility for the management of the problem lays with both the parents and school.
The thought of your child catching head lice can be very daunting. School-age children are most at risk. Checking your child’s hair weekly and knowing how to identify and manage head lice, will assist you in treating them quickly.
Lice live close to the scalp and lay their eggs on the hair shaft. They differ in colour from white through to brown and can only be transferred by head to head contact or contact with items such as hats or hair combs/brushes recently used by someone with lice. They do not jump or fly. The eggs look like tiny brown, oblong dots on the hair shaft which will usually be close to the scalp.
When identified, immediate treatment is crucial. Lice can be removed using a fine metal tooth comb available from chemists and using either a chemical treatment or regular hair conditioner. It is essential that this process is repeated daily for 10 days to ensure they are completely eradicated.
The NSW Government has some great information about the treatment of head lice which may help.
Parents have a duty of care to notify the school if they detect head lice on their children and not to send them to school untreated. It is helpful for you to advise the school when your child was treated so staff can encourage your child to take extra precautionary measures such as minimising head to head contact to prevent spreading or re-infestation.
Most schools have created policies around the handling of head lice. It is important that teachers and staff are trained in identifying and managing lice, and in the sensitivity and confidentiality required to handle the situation.
If you notice a student scratching, discreetly alert them and discourage close contact with other students to minimise the risk of head lice infestation spreading.
Some schools have pre-established proforma consent forms as part of their enrolment process to assist with the control of head lice, alternately seek permission from parents to inspect the child’s head for lice. If lice are found you can alert the child discreetly and educate them about the steps they can take in avoiding close contact and spreading the lice to other students. While a student found to have lice needn’t be excluded from any class activities for the remainder of the day, teaching staff can carefully ensure head to head contact is avoided between students.
It is vital for the school to alert the family of the affected student right away, then provide confidential communication, treatment and management information to the parents/families of the class. Have fact sheets on hand that you can send home with your students to alert and educate the parents or carers on head lice treatments. These steps can promote awareness and provide practical information to families about how to check their children for lice and future prevention and control.
Please see links below for some helpful information about head lice:
Treating this situation with sensitivity and discretion is paramount. Early detection, practical education and support, can assist parents, families and educators to identify treat lice quickly and effectively and be proactive in future prevention and control.
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